West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 14 | September 5 - 11, 2007

Child actors learn the show must go on

By Adrienne Urbanski

Last month, child actors Lily Maketansky, 10, and Simon Garratt, 9, got their first real taste of show business during a technical dress rehearsal of the Public Theatre’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” in which both were cast as fairies. The two watched as director Daniel Sullivan fell through an onstage trap door, collapsing a lung and fracturing four ribs. Amazingly, Sullivan pulled through and quickly returned to the production, which closes this weekend.

“When he injured himself I thought, ‘Is the play going to go on?’ I thought he might not come back. But I saw that everyone is just so devoted to this that it always will go on,” said Maketansky, who lives in Haworth, NJ.

“I really thought they were going to change directors, but he came through. It was really quite inspiring,” said Soho resident Garratt.

The Shakespeare comedy marked the children’s New York theatrical premieres, and both were surprised by the amount of work putting on a large-scale production entails. Both children only spend one day a week off from the theater, and devoted hours to training in rehearsals. Maketansky admitted to feeling overwhelmed, and feared she wouldn’t be able to do it.

“There were points when we were learning the music or the dance steps when I asked myself ‘Am I able to do this?’ I didn’t think I would be able to learn all of it in time, but somehow I managed and just felt really accomplished after it. It’s an incredible feeling,” she said.

Garratt was surprised by the amount of time the cast was expected to devote to rehearsals, finding the blocking run-throughs particularly strenuous.

The Delacorte Theater’s outdoor setting also presents its own unique problems: Actors must often perform through rain and waves of biting insects. “It’s really kind of extreme theater in that way,” Maketansky said. “But everyone is so passionate about this that they don’t seem to mind.”

Both children credit their successful auditions, and ability to adapt to the demanding rehearsals to their experience with Biz Kids, a West Village theater school on Pier 40 dedicated to teaching students traditional theatrical skills like stage combat, scene study, and vocal techniques. “There is really nothing like it for serious kids who want to develop skills,” said Director Peggy Lewis. “This is not after school with minimum-wage babysitters. Our kids are taught by some of the most prestigious teachers in the industry.”

Although all students are trained in Shakespearean theater and often go on to professional roles, Lewis still sees the children’s roles in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a rare and fortunate opportunity — which both actors relished, despite the hard work.

“Yes, it’s actually quite difficult,” said Garratt, “but it’s also very rewarding. Just to face the audience and hear them clapping is so exhilarating. I love it so much that I would be willing to work on my day off.”

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