Tony award-winning stage and television star Laura Benanti has been shining a spotlight on young thespians with the hashtag #SunshineSongs on Twitter and Instagram.
She posted a video of herself on social media, asking kids and young adults to share videos of their canceled musicals due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
She’s been overjoyed by the “sheer volume” of posts. There have been well over 3,000 videos shared so far, ranging from university students to four-year-olds.
Benanti has watched Every. Single. One.
“I thought I’d get 10 or 15 kids sending me things. I didn’t expect so many submissions. It’s wonderful.”
Raised in the small town of Kinnelon, New Jersey with a graduating class of 89, Benanti was the only person in her class who loved theater.
“I assumed that was the world,” she shares. “But some of these high schools have incredible theater programs.”
In high school, her favorite role was the lead in Hello, Dolly! This was the show that put her on the map. She won the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award (like the Tonys for high school) which led her to audition for The Sound of Music on Broadway, eventually taking over the role of Maria at the age of nineteen.
“One of the reasons I’m so interested in creating a community of theater artists is because, as a young person, I felt pretty solitary in my town and then as an eighteen-year-old in a professional world.”
But Benanti is not done building this platform for younger performers. She wants to ensure everyone has a chance to see these performances, even if they’re not Twitter or Instagram-savvy.
She, along with her friend, Kate Dieter-Maradei, are putting together an email newsletter where kids can submit their videos. This will then be shared with senior facilities, hospitals, and anyone who is solitary at this time and could use a pick-me-up.
Their hope is to have this available within the next couple of weeks.
Benanti’s advice to young performers is to “be yourself. We live in a society that likes to quantify us by placing us into a box. Young performers are often applauded for sounding like someone else. Figure out what makes you special and lean into that.”
Sage advice for us all.
Have a young performer in your life? Be sure to post them singing their little hearts out with the hashtag #SunshineSongs. Laura is excited to watch!
Miranda is a freelance writer, editor, and educator who writes about raising a child with autism on her blog, Mommy Catharsis. Her work can also be found on Ann Arbor Family Press, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, and The Mighty. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or her business site, Keskes Ink.