Bionic Girl Shines For Spines

Thea Flanzer, 16, directs a cabaret fundraiser in Riverhead.

It was only this past October, about seven months ago, that high school junior Thea Flanzer underwent a seven-hour surgery to correct her scoliosis.

For most kids, or most everybody, really, the rest and recuperation would be challenging enough. However, Flanzer, who has been training at the Gateway School of Performing Arts in Bellport since the age of five, decided instead to put together a show.

And that’s exactly what the 16-year-old budding actress, who refers to herself as “the bionic girl,” has done. Flanzer, who lives in East Quogue, has enlisted a group of performers to create “The Artist Alignment: Shine for the Spines” cabaret at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead. The proceeds will benefit pediatric scoliosis research for Columbia Children’s Health, in honor of Dr. Michael Vitale and Dr. Richard Anderson of Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, who completed the surgery on Flanzer, preserving her mobility by placing only two rods on the upper half of her spine to allow her to continue performing.

Thea Flanzer, who attends the Gifted and Talented program through the well-respected private Laurel Springs School online, appeared as Jane Banks in the Gateway Playhouse’s 2014 production of “Mary Poppins” at the Patchogue Theatre, alongside members of the Broadway and national tour casts. She also appeared off-Broadway in “If You Press Yer Eyes Hard Enuf” in 2017.

“The Artist Alignment,” being held on Saturday, May 18, at 6:30 PM, will include performances from artists with Broadway and national tour credits, a 50/50 raffle, and a “lucky basket” auction. The creative team also includes Flanzer’s mentors, Michael Baker of The Gateway Playhouse, Virginia Mesiano of Backyard Theatre, and colleague and friend Ethan Eisenberg.

Flanzer battled scoliosis, a painful curvature of the spine, for the past two years. But the indefatigable teen also made the National Honor Society and is a member of the Model United Nations, and created Share the Love, her own line of bracelets, using a 3D printer, and donated the proceeds to 4 Paws for Ability, a non-profit which provides service dogs to children worldwide.

According to a press release, Dr. Vitale and Dr. Anderson perform over 200 spinal surgeries a year. The Pediatric Orthopedic Research Fund at Columbia University, spearheaded by Dr. Vitale, has been an integral part of many pediatric scoliosis breakthroughs, including the use of a magnetic spine-lengthening device (called MAGEC) for growing children.

“I was extremely lucky to have an amazing team for my surgery, along with my extremely supportive friends and family,” Flanzer said. “So many people helped me during my surgery and I am hoping to pay it forward by helping other kids with scoliosis. We’ve assembled an amazing group of performers who are lending their voices to raise money and awareness for scoliosis research. It is sure to be a very exciting event.”

All of the proceeds from the event will go toward researching new scoliosis treatments. Tickets are available at Eventbrite, under “The Artist Alignment.”

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