Youth theater is changing lives in Riverdale

Summer Stage is in full swing and this week, we want to pass the mic to some of our teens to share about the power of theater — and the experience of being part of Riverdale Y’s theater program.


At its core, theater is an exchange of energy between performers and the audience– there is no one language of theater. It bridges every continent, country, and culture together and, in a technologically advancing world, performing remains a constant that can serve as a form of peacebuilding activism. 

Theater also encourages young minds to stay creative and explore their imagination. Specifically for me, that comes in terms of the acting component of theater. I love acting because it gives birth to a form of critical thinking that allows me to ask questions, break apart in order to find chaos, and then piece it back together. Theater fuels the soul and is more important now than ever to spread the love and joy of humanity to our divided world.

During tech week for my first musical here at Riverdale Y, Something Rotten, I did not think I would return back to do the spring musical because of my busy junior year schedule. I remember sitting in the lobby of Riverdale Y crying my eyes out after our last rehearsal because I knew deep down I had found something really special—a program that not only welcomed me with open arms, but made me feel comfortable being myself—and I did not want to leave. 

Crying in the lobby, I was surrounded by kids who just months before were total strangers but now felt like forever friends. Safe to say, I absolutely continued doing theater at Riverdale Y and have found my theatrical family. 


In 2020, our shows were outside due to the pandemic. During one rehearsal, the power went out. But since Riverdale Rising Stars at Riverdale Y carries the magic it does, we didn’t let that stop us from having a good time. One of the older kids pulled out a guitar and we all started singing songs together, campfire style, in the complete darkness. 

That moment sticks out to me because sometimes in the weeds of a stressful tech rehearsal we can forget why we chose to be here. That moment made me realize that this theater program is so much more than just a group of kids putting on a show: it’s a family of budding stars who love to sing, dance, and create together.

Theater has been a huge part of my life for an entire decade. My life would not be mine without it. I wholeheartedly believe that I am the person I am today because of theater. It teaches you so much more than school or most life experiences can. From a young age, I understood the values of empathy, teamwork, patience, and determination. Putting on a show is hard, and it teaches you to push through and overcome challenges alongside others, using their help to guide you. But beyond all these useful values essential to growing up into a competent adult, it teaches you to find yourself.

Theater will forever and always be the place I turn to when I want to know how to do the right thing, and how to do it with love and passion and care.


I have grown so much as a person. The way that theater at Riverdale Y allows each of its participants to blossom and to become so much more fearless is, it’s just so unique and so incredible. 

When I became a teen, I developed a little bit of a shyness that maybe hadn’t been there as much before. You know, COVID definitely didn’t help that. And I had maybe a year and a half or two years where I felt like I was a really introverted person, which was a new thing. But when we returned for the first fall show where it really felt like we were almost back to normal COVID-wise, Something Rotten was the show that season. I felt so supported by the people around me. I felt so welcomed to open up. And I did. I played this crazy role, William Shakespeare, but it’s kind of like a rock star, William Shakespeare, that’s just totally outrageous. I was shy, but the people around me made it so that it was so easy to be outrageous and to totally open up.

What’s so special about Riverdale Y’s theater program  is that you’re in a totally judgment-free zone when it comes to acting crazy and just giving all of your performances your all. No one’s there to judge you. Everyone’s just there to support, which is great. And why do I think theater is important? Well, I think theater is important generally because it’s kind of like a way to sum up stories that reflect larger stories in the world and for us to kind of watch these stories play out live in a controlled environment and reflect on them.

Be part of the magic

This award-winning (and more importantly, life-changing) theater program is only possible because of support through community members, like you, who care about supporting youth. You can pitch in by making a tax-deductible donation here.

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