Talk about a front row seat.
When the national tour of Once on This Island kicked off in Nashville last week, there were a few lucky enough to immerse themselves in the Tony Award-winning revival’s unique on-stage seating, literally putting their toes in the sand.
Typically, unconventional and exclusive Broadway experiences like these would go to the highest bidder.
Instead, TPAC impact partners AllianceBernstein, Enterprise Solutions, Jani-King, Premiere Transportation and Sea Salt had something else in mind.
Students from John Overton, adults from Robertson County YMCA’s After Breast Cancer Program, college students with FUTURO and YMCA Latino Achievers got the chance of a lifetime to become part of the show, just inches away from the action.
These community and youth groups got the best seats in the house at no cost to them, courtesy of AllianceBernstein, Enterprise Solutions and Jani-King, experiencing firsthand the heartwarming narrative about a fearless peasant girl in search of her place in the world.
These partners recognize the importance of the arts and the importance of connecting them with people that wouldn’t usually access these rare theatrical experiences.
“I’ve never seen anything like that ever on stage,” explains Overton student Mateen Hasan after the performance. “They presented the Caribbean culture so well that I truly believed it was real, like I wasn’t even part of the audience.”
Sweetening the experience, Premiere Transportation provided Hasan and the rest of Overton’s theatre program with free, stylish transportation to the performance.
For Overton, this was more than a night out at the theater. These students are working on their own production of Once on This Island to perform later this fall (which has been submitted for consideration in the Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards, or Spotlight Awards, co-presented by Lipscomb’s College of Entertainment & the Arts and TPAC).
“I’m literally speechless right now,” says Overton student Zoe Newcomb, who’s preparing to play Ti Moune in their upcoming student production. “The atmosphere was amazing and really brought you into it. It’s so important for people to hear this story and accept everyone the way that they are.”
Overton students stayed after the performance to talk with the national tour’s talented cast — many of which came from the original Broadway production.
Another partner, Sea Salt, created a special multi-course brunch for women in the Robertson County YMCA After Breast Cancer program before a matinee performance.
Sea Salt co-owner/operator Keith Zust, who also holds a degree in Fine Arts, has always believed “the arts can bring beauty, truth and goodness to the world.”
“It’s exciting to be part of something like the arts that has stood the test of time and allows people to get lost in story, music, and theatre,” Zust says.
Carly Rolfe of AllianceBernstein also attended the brunch to get to know some of the people the Nashville-based wealth management firm was impacting on a personal level.
A few of these women were able to tell TPAC how much this experience meant to them after the curtains closed that Saturday afternoon. One of them, Terri, calling it a “once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “It’s probable that we may never have a day so special again in our lifetime.”
For the final evening performances,college students with FUTURO and members of the YMCA Latino Achievers program enjoyed the on-stage seating.
“It gave us such a unique perspective, different from the rest of the audience. It’s like we were there, as part of the story,” says Jennifer Novo, Executive Director of FUTURO, Inc. “The story of Once on This Island was one that many of our students can relate to. Our organization is one that encourages students to find their place, their purpose and meaning for their future — much like Ti Moune trying to find her place and meaning in the world.”
For some of these students, this was their very first experience with a Broadway play.
“Our FUTURO students work very hard, they go to school full time and most work and have many responsibilities at home,” Nova continues. “To be able to step outside of their typical world, even for just a few hours, made it a positive, fun and meaningful experience for our community.”
Victor Berrios, President and CEO of Jani-King and the President of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, says “we were honored to be able to sponsor such an event.”
Sponsors like AllianceBernstein, Enterprise Solutions and Jani-King give back to their community because they know the impact it has.
“I personally have seen and felt the effect that arts education can have on youth, and we are proud to partner with TPAC to extend that impact in the Nashville community.” says Adam Sansiveri, Managing Director of Bernstein Private Wealth Management and TPAC Board Member.
And James C. Seabury III, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Solutions, LLC., reminds us why we all do it in the first place.
“Nonprofits that provide access to the arts for future leaders are vital to a harmonious community,” he said. “Enterprise Solutions is honored to work with TPAC and fellow sponsors to provide this unique, theatrical experience to community groups and students in Middle Tennessee.”
Connect with Michael Aldrich on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @michaelwaldrich.