What is TADA!’s Resident Youth Ensemble?
At the heart of TADA! is the Ensemble, a unique, award-winning, completely free pre-professional theater training and positive youth development program for over 80 kids and teens aged 8-18. Our Ensemble Members come from all five NYC boroughs, as well as parts of New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island. Ensemble Members perform in high quality, fully designed and produced mainstage productions at TADA! as well as at special events throughout NYC. However, the program doesn’t end there! Youth development activities and benefits range from transportation subsidies to small group mentoring with TADA! staff, to college preparation and tours to free snacks during rehearsals. In addition to theater skills, Ensemble Members improve their abilities in teamwork, time management, public speaking, positive communication, and conflict resolution. Over 1,000 kids have been part of TADA! productions and the Ensemble program since 1984.
Our Ensemble Members come from all walks of life and from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they are all united in their desire to make great musical theater. Some of our Ensemble Alumni go on to pursue theater professionally as adults – our Alumni include: Josh Peck (The Wackness, Nickelodeon’s “Drake & Josh” and Drillbit Taylor), Kerry Washington (Scandal, Lakeview Terrace, I Think I Love My Wife, The Last King of Scotland), Mizuo Peck (Night at the Museum), Ricki Lake (The Business of Being Born, “Ricki Lake” show), Rap artist Azealia Banks, and Jordan Peele (Key & Peele, MadTV). Many others go on to other careers – but all agree that being a part of TADA! made growing up easier and taught them countless skills applicable to any direction they go in life. The Resident Youth Ensemble is about building a community that becomes like a second home for its participants, a place to be part of professional quality productions while also just being kids and having fun.
How do I become an Ensemble Member?
Open auditions are held in the fall of each year. Please see our Audition Page for more information about the next audition dates. Our auditions are in the form of group workshops where everyone is in the room together. You will learn everything you need the day of, so there is no need to prepare anything prior to the audition date. You should just bring comfortable clothes and shoes that you can dance in, as well as your enthusiasm to perform. We make our auditions as fun and stress-free as possible.
We accept kids and teens of all levels of experience. You do not need any prior experience in performing to join the Ensemble. You don’t need any professional credit or special training. You don’t need a headshot, resume, or an agent. We look for natural talent, passion, and personality that will be a fit with our Ensemble family.
Is the Ensemble Program right for me?
TADA!’s Resident Youth Ensemble is completely and 100% free of charge. However, being a part of an Ensemble can be a significant time commitment throughout the year. In addition, as a pre-professional training and youth development program, we prefer Ensemble Members who will stick with our program over many years until they graduate from high school. The program is about creating a community of passionate young people who grow up together and learn from each other over time.
We know that today’s youth have busier schedules than ever, with intense academic expectations and more and more activities and programs competing for their time. However, we are looking for passionate and committed Ensemble Members who will make TADA! a priority in their lives and make themselves available for our training classes and also to audition for at least one of our three mainstage musicals each year. Like so many things, the more you put into the Resident Youth Ensemble, the more you will get out of it.
At TADA!, our focus is on creating a solid Ensemble in which each member is important. As such, lead roles for productions are determined after an audition with your fellow Ensemble Members, and are assigned based on what is best for the individual production. An Ensemble Member may have a lead role in one production and then be cast in a supporting or ensemble role in the next show, even if they’ve been involved at TADA! for many years. We encourage our participants to treat EVERY role and EVERY show as important, no matter the size of their individual role. As such, the casts for our production become like a little family in which each person matters. Putting a show together takes a lot of work, and we take that work seriously – but we also have a lot of fun! It’s that tight-knit community and the fun that comes from doing good work together that keeps our Ensemble Members coming back year after year.
TADA! is simply not the place for a performer who wants or expects to be the star in every single production. It IS the place for performers who want to be a part of an exciting group of friends who work together to make amazing musical theater.
What benefits do Ensemble Members receive?
Once in the program, Ensemble Members have access to a whole host of benefits and opportunities! All of these opportunities are free.
- Performance Opportunities – The first and foremost benefit of the Ensemble is the opportunity to perform in our mainstage TADA! musicals. We perform all original material. Each musical was written specifically for our Ensemble, with roles suitable to their range of ages and in ranges suitable to their voices. In addition to the mainstage, the Ensemble performs at special events around New York City each year.
- Training Classes – We offer classes throughout the year to train our Ensemble in dance, acting, improv, and musical theater history. Some classes are open to all ages and levels. Some are specific to more advanced performers, or specific to teenagers. The classes are taught by TADA! staff or by guest instructors who are professionals in their area of expertise. These classes are closed to the general public and offered only to Ensemble Members.
- Audition Prep – The process of applying to middle school, high school, and college can be overwhelming, particularly if you are looking to go to a performing arts school. TADA! offers audition preparation help for Ensemble Members preparing for these big auditions, including help with monologues, preparing songs, etc.
Tickets to Professional Productions – TADA! Ensemble Members receive free or reduced price tickets to Broadway, off-Broadway, and other NYC theater throughout the year, giving them the opportunity to see professional work.
- Social Activities – TADA! provides opportunities for Ensemble Members to interact with each other socially in a safe environment. Hang Out Time (HOT) and Teen Movie Nights occur monthly throughout the school year. We also have a yearly Ensemble Excursion for our members and their family and friends. These social activities help bind our community together and strengthen friendships between our participants.
- Job RAP (Readiness Apprenticeship Program) – Ensemble Members who are in high school and have completed at least one show qualify to apply for our Job RAP program, a paid internship and job preparation experience. The program includes help with preparing a resume, a mock job interview, a job assignment relating to the participants area of interest, and an exit interview / performance evaluation.
- Travel Subsidies – Ensemble families who demonstrate financial need can qualify for subsidies on the Ensemble Member’s travel expenses to and from TADA! for rehearsals and classes.
- Free Healthy Snacks – Snacks are offered at every rehearsal and class throughout the year.
- College Preparation – Ensemble Members in high school can receive assistance in college research, and college and financial aid applications.
What is required of the Ensemble Members?
First and foremost, we ask for commitment and dedication from our Ensemble. This is reflected in punctuality, in the way they treat each other and TADA! staff, and in behavior and focus while in rehearsal or a class. An Ensemble Member must audition for one of the mainstage shows in order to be considered an active member for that year. Older Ensemble Members are expected to mentor their younger peers and to be a good example at all times.
We also expect each Ensemble Member to fulfill a number of community service hours at TADA! each year. Members may assist TADA! as production interns, design interns, administrative interns, or ushers in order to fulfill this requirement.
Will participation in the Ensemble interfere with school?
We feel that academic performance is important and that participation with the Ensemble at TADA! should never get in the way of achievement and study at school. TADA! collects report cards and progress reports from each participant throughout the year to make sure that their participation in the program has not affected them at school. If grades were to start to slip, our staff would meet with the participant and a parent to discuss how TADA! can help them do better. Most of our Ensemble Members excel at school, learning valuable time management skills to stay on top of their homework. We continually remind and reinforce the philosophy that school comes first. Many of our kids love performing so much that participation at TADA! is a valuable incentive for them to work extra hard in school.
Classes, rehearsals, and performances never take place during school hours. The one exception is the School Day Performances during our Winter and Spring productions. Each of those shows perform for local school groups on one day during their run, requiring the Ensemble Members in that cast to miss school that day. However, we give a lot of warning in advance about what day you will be missing and will provide a letter to give to your school explaining the reason for your absence.
For detailed information, please contact Ashley Knowles, Ensemble Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 212.252.1619 x132.
TADA!’s Resident Youth Ensemble Program is supported in part by Bloomberg, Google, ConEd, and NYS Council on the Arts. Special thanks to The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for supporting TADA! Theater. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.