DENVER — On March 22, 19 theater students from Manual High School in Denver took a week-long trip to New York City to take Broadway theater workshops and watch Broadway shows.
“So as an inner city school with a predominantly African American population, we felt like it was super important for students of color to see themselves on Broadway," said Layla Rankin, a junior at Manual High School. "So we went to a lot of shows that had either their first African American actress or actor."
Throughout the week, the students saw a total of nine shows.
“We saw "Lion King," we saw "MJ," "Wicked," and "Confederates,"” said student Jaci Collins-Falcon.
Rankin says one of two of the most exciting experiences of the trip was performing on the Apollo Theater stage and learning techniques from Broadway musical stars.
“We did a lot of workshops," Rankin said. "It was a lot of theater-based strategies and techniques. Lots of tech workshops, because not only are we actors, but we have some techies as well. And then vocal stuff. We did improv, a little bit of everything."
Before the group of students went on the trip, the Manual High School community held a fundraiser to help them pay for it.
“Where I'm from, I don't see nobody taking kids out of the, out of the state,” said Damarion Roundtree, a Manual High School junior. “Manual made it happen. The Friends of Manual, everybody in Manual, the students who are a part of it, our teachers, the administrators, everybody made it happen. So I want to thank them for that.”
“For them to not only take us to New York, but then to show us that it is possible for us to be on Broadway, that was just another level," said Matthias McGee, a Manual High School junior. "It just shows their commitment and dedication to this program."
Many of the students who took the trip say they hear a lot about disadvantaged youth and the opportunities they don’t have, so this trip was unexpected but also refreshing.
“A quote that somebody said to me is, "You don't have to be over the age of 50 to accomplish a life goal,"” McGee said.
The teens plan to use the experiences and skills they learned in their upcoming production, "Maybe Grease," a rendition of the hit musical Grease. which debuts in three weeks.