Bay Street Theater has announced the all-new Bay Street Theater Student Academy, and its director is looking for local teenagers to not only star in it, but to develop valuable skills and a potentially life-changing passion during the process, as she did.
Joining the Bay Street team in September 2021 as customer experience manager, Academy Director Kayla Matters quickly realized that the lack of access to East End theater training opportunities that she experienced as a teenager, was still felt by today’s teens. And she had the right level of passion and experience to do something about it.
Building up her “jack of all trades” expertise, as she describes it, a young Matters joined the STAGES program, which allowed her to perform on the Bay Street stage; took voice, dance and acting lessons in New York City; and attended Rider University, graduating with a BFA in musical theater in 2018. After a stint performing in theater productions around the country, she moved back to NYC where she helped train underprivileged and marginalized students in musical theater.
When COVID-19 hit, Matters returned to the Hamptons and found a job at Bay Street, where she further developed an interest in the creation and business of theater. Inspired by Director of Education and Community Outreach Allen O’Reilly’s passion for his work with children, she proposed to him and Executive Director Tracy Mitchell a new way for teens to develop and explore their own passion for theater.
“This is going to be the first time Bay Street puts on a month-long academy that culminates in a fully mounted production of a musical with students,” Matters says, adding that she is looking to cast around 15–20 young actors — a larger cast than even some of Bay Street’s summer MainStage shows.
For the inaugural Bay Street Theater Academy show, Matters chose The Addams Family, a 2010 Broadway smash featuring the music of Andrew Lippa. “I wanted something the teens would be excited to perform, something they thought was fun and modern, and something that the audience would enjoy, as well,” she shares, noting that if she were a teen today, she probably wouldn’t be “too jazzed about a Disney show.”
Auditions will be held on Monday, January 24 and are open to fully vaccinated performers ages 12–18. Each singer must prepare 32 bars from one the following Addams Family songs: “Pulled,” “Just Around the Corner,” “Happy/Sad,” “Crazier Than You,” “What If” or “The Moon and Me.” An accompanist will be provided.
Callbacks for specific roles will follow on Tuesday, January 25, where actor chemistry and role fit will be assessed. Everyone who auditions will be accepted into the academy and cast in the show. Because of this, online registration is required ahead of auditions with a tuition price of $450. Families who can’t afford tuition can email Matters at [email protected] to inquire about need-based scholarships. “Bay Street is very passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion,” she adds.
The audition process may not be cutting any aspiring young actors, but it’s not to be taken lightly either. Matters shares that the lessons she learned from strict, professional directors have stuck with her for many years, so she hopes to instill in her students the motto: “Happy to be here, ready to work.” With these words in mind, she plans to cultivate a positive learning environment where students can improve their collaborative teamwork, public speaking, professionalism, confidence, commitment, technical skills and ability to express emotions through art.
“I want this to be not just resulting in a performance, but I want this to be something that the kids can walk away with a variety of things that they’ve learned from the experience,” Matters says, emphasizing that whether a student is cast in the ensemble or as a lead, the experience will be invaluable. “At the end of the day, it’s not the size of the role, it’s what you do with it.”
The Addams Family will rehearse weekly, Mondays through Wednesdays, beginning January 24 through April 4, 3–6 p.m., culminating in performances on Friday, April 8 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 9 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. With these performances, Matters hopes to not only get the actors excited about theater, but the kids in the audience, as well, which will help the Hamptons become “a community where we’re inspiring the next generation of artists,” she says.
“I’m incredibly passionate about this project, and the thing I want more than anything is to share that passion with the students and to show them how transformative and life-changing theater can be — regardless of the role, regardless of whether you want to pursue this as a career,” she continues. “Theater, for me, was a life-changing experience. It gave me a passion, gave me a purpose, and if I can have just one student find a passion or a purpose, then I think this will have been worth it.”
Tuition and audition details can be found at baystreet.org.