In July, Alley Ellis, an eighth-grader from Edgartown, headed to Providence for an open audition for Camp Broadway, a theater arts camp in New York where young actors can hone their talents, get introduced to big-time theater, and perhaps participate in an extravaganza like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Which Alley did last week, after learning in August that she was one of 120 winners selected at regional auditions around the country. In the meantime, she was one of the leads in the Edgartown School’s production of “Bluebeard” on the first weekend of November. With her mom and dad, Donna Swift and Scott Ellis, Alley headed for New York on November 18 to take part in five days of rehearsals and then the parade on Thanksgiving day. Her account of her time on Broadway follows:
Saturday, Nov. 19
Today, I had my first rehearsal! It was so exciting. I had a chorus class, then a master class, and then a costume fitting. On the way to the studio, I was pretty nervous, but I calmed down right before at a Starbucks across the street. My mom, dad, and I piled into a huge studio filled with about 50 other kids and 50 parents, all in one small hallway. We learned about the rules, how everything was going to work for the week ahead, and about how to be professional when a celebrity came by in the parade.
The red team (my group) went into a big studio and all stood in a circle for our chorus class. There were 22 of us in the red group. The song that we are going to sing sounds so fun. We listened to it a couple of times and were ready to learn.
I had a blast in this class! Our teacher, Rob, was really a funny guy and made the boring parts of the class exciting. At the end of the class, he told us that we have to memorize the whole song by tomorrow! As I am writing this… I am also frantically trying to learn this song.
The master class was probably the highlight of my day. We took this class from a lady who was a Rockette and one of the original members of “Chicago.” We learned the opening number from the Broadway show “Chicago.” I loved learning dance steps from a show that I was going to see that night!
Chicago! During the opening number, “All That Jazz,” I was thinking about the dance that we learned while watching it being preformed by professional actors!
Sunday, Nov. 20
Today, at our second rehearsal, we learned the choreography for what we will do in the parade. I really like the dance: it is cute and is going to be fun to perform. Seeing the musical “Chicago” really opened my eyes to more of what theater can do. I am really looking forward to incorporating that into my performing.
We worked with Rob for the first 45 minutes on our song. I was glad that I’d memorized the song because I was not sure how fast we were going to go. We went fast!
Later, we learned the entire dance. A bunch of girls and I really supported each other throughout this whole rehearsal. I think I am starting to get close with them and it’s only my second day.
Monday, Nov. 21
Today was the best day so far. We are getting good at our song, and it sounds like nothing I have heard before. At one point, I was the only person singing because I was the only soprano in that group. At the end everyone clapped: I think that was my favorite chorus class so far.
For our dance section of the day, we finally found out what section we are singing and what part/where we are dancing. I am really excited because for the most part I am in the front. Our rehearsals are really starting to come together, I think because we are all starting to get really close. A girl named Mary Elizabeth, from Mississippi, and I are really good friends now. She is so nice and really sweet.
After rehearsal I took a nap to be ready for my audition later. I am auditioning for Camp Broadway’s spring session and a performance in Carnegie Hall in April. I always like to chill out before an audition because it makes me so much less nervous. I went to the same studio and filled out a sheet about all the experiences we have had. Mary Elizabeth was there which was really great because we got each other’s numbers and had a lot of fun before we went into our individual auditions. The audition song was “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” I feel like it went really well and that I had a great audition.
Today we had our television blocking rehearsal. We were not in costume, but we rehearsed on the street with all the tech equipment and rehearsal cameras. Before we all went outside all of the girls that have been getting to know each other got each other’s numbers and we friended each other on Facebook. I am really going to miss these girls. All of our assistant stage managers gave us big rain ponchos and we set out in the freezing cold rain.
Step by step with everyone by my side, we jumped around and danced like little Zhu Zhu pets into the night. When all was said and done we went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday, Nov. 23
Today we had our final dress rehearsal. We put on our costumes and our parents could videotape and take pictures! I had the most fun today because this was the first rehearsal that we have had just a taste of performing for a lot of people. We did the number several times for our friends and family.
After the rehearsal, we did some shopping, got dinner and went back to the hotel. I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Thursday, Nov. 24, Thanksgiving
Today was the parade! I woke up early to line up at 7 am with the rest of my group. After line-up, it took about two more hours before we actually got in place with our float because of all the celebrities. We saw Cello Green, Avril Lavine, Scotty McReery, and Savannah Outen (who was on our float). This was so exciting, the adrenaline was starting to kick in. I was in the front of the first line and ready to go!
Here we go! We started moving and I was so excited. Walking down the street waving at 3.5 million people, I was so amazed I almost fell over a couple of times. People were yelling, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
When we walked up to Macy’s we had to be perfectly silent because of other performances. When it was our turn we heard, “Walk up and get in your stage positions.” Even though it was all of 1 minute and 20 seconds, it was the most fun I have had performing because there were so many people. There were even people on the roofs of the buildings.
After the parade when we were walking to meet our parents we saw Matt Lauer riding his bike! I really hope I can do this next year and maybe many years in the future.