2015 Best Student Actress Nominee: Zehava Younger as Anne Frank in Boston Children's Theatre's "The Diary of Anne Frank"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: Andi Freedman

Photo Credit: Andi Freedman

Zehava Younger played a pitch-perfect Anne Frank, showing gorgeous growth and excellent empathy for the iconic young woman. Zehava's ability to lead the production in her powerful delivery of her diary entries as well as become part of the Frank family and household in the annex earned her a Best Student Actress nomination. In her Interview, Zehava tells us how she earned the role of Anne Frank, her favorite stories, and what makes her most proud.

Hi, Zehava, and thank you for joining us for our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. Can you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself?

I am 15 years old, and a sophomore at Beverly High School. I’ve been performing since the age of 7 years old, and I intend to pursue a career in theater through college.

How did you start performing? What were some of your first plays or performances? What did you enjoy most about it?

My mom likes to say I started singing before I learned to talk. I started singing lessons when I was 6 years old, and put on many shows for my family in our living room. My grandparents started taking me to see shows at a very young age (I was probably about 4 or 5). I loved musicals, so my mom took me to an audition for the 2007 production of A Christmas Carol at North Shore Music Theater. I was cast as Want. It was pretty much all downhill from there.

I loved the feeling of getting together with a group of people to create a world all its own, that only exists for a couple hours at a time.

How did you get the role of Anne Frank? What was the audition process? Do you remember how you felt when you heard that you got that role?

I had participated in Boston Children’s Theatre’s summer program in 2014. Here, I learned  about the  upcoming  auditions  for  The  Diary  of Anne Frank.  The audition process consisted of the initial audition, two callbacks, and a one-week wait for the cast list.

I remember coming home from ballet class and running to my computer to see if the cast list had been posted. It took a minute for it all to sink in, but, once it did, there was a lot of screams of excitement, tears of joy, and frantic phone calls to my grandparents and friends. I was also pretty terrified because, besides a couple of Shakespeare plays, I had really only done musical theater.

What did you learn about Anne Frank and the Holocaust while working on this play?  Did you find that you were similar or different than Anne?  What did you relate to the most?

Being Jewish myself, I first learned of the Holocaust at a very young age. My seventh grade Hebrew school class took a field trip to Washington, D.C. to go to the Holocaust Museum. That really opened my eyes to a lot of the events of that time period that I didn’t know about.

Before I started rehearsals, I took time to read the actual diary, and I was awed by her way with words on a page. I also saw many small similarities between the two of us. Our reactions to certain situations are extremely close. I think that made it easier to connect to the character. Understanding how her mind may have worked helped in developing my interpretation.

The Frank Family in The Boston Children's Theatre's  The Diary of Anne Frank  (Photo Credit: Leighanne Evelyn Photography).

The Frank Family in The Boston Children's Theatre's The Diary of Anne Frank (Photo Credit: Leighanne Evelyn Photography).

Who are some of your favorite historical or famous people?  Why?

Some of my favorite historical people include Shakespeare, who I admire how he could move mountains with nothing but a paper and ink.  I also really like the artwork of Van Gogh, Dali, and Picasso. As for other famous people, I'm inspired by Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Maggie Smith, and Tom Hiddleston.

What are some of your hobbies?  What do you like to do for fun? 

In my free time, I enjoy learning fashion design, horseback-riding, and playing with my cat.

What advice would you give other young actors about performing?  Is there anything that you wish that you had known before performing, in this play or other plays?

I would tell other young performers that if you give as much effort to each production as you would into your Broadway debut, you will be consistently happier with the final product.

What are some of your favorite stories?  Why?

I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan; I've read all seven books at least ten times each.  There's something about the way that they are written that, even though you know the events on the page never happened, they feel real. 

Of what are you most proud?  Why?  

I am most proud of my attempts at balancing my schoolwork during productions for which I've had to miss some school.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Do you have any other dreams or goals?

In the future, I hope to major in musical theatre and continue performing for as long as I possibly can. 

Do you have any upcoming projects? 

I am currently working on the world premiere of Caps for Sale (The Musical) with the Boston Children's Theatre. It opens in early March 2016. 

2015 Best Student Actress Nominee: Quiana Holmes as Dorothy Gale in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's "The Wiz"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com

Photo Credit: Jenny Rydstet.

Photo Credit: Jenny Rydstet.

Quiana Holmes embodied Dorothy Gale in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's The Wiz. From her courage and strength to her kindness and warmth, Quiana gave a daring performance with talents well beyond her years as a young college student, performing alongside many Equity performers and excelling, especially in her heartrending "Home." In her Interview, Quiana tells us about how she came to audition for The Wiz, her dream vacation (we want to see all of the pictures!), and her exciting and international new project!

Hi, Quiana, and thank you for joining us for our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.  Please tell us about yourself.

Hello! My full name is Quiana Onrae’l Knaombi Javon Holmes. I am from Rome, New York, a little city in upstate New York. I attended Rome Free Academy for high school, and, there, I ultimately fell in love with music. I was involved in most of my school choirs: Rhapsody Show Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Marching Black Knights (marching band), and the musicals! I decided to take my music education further by enrolling at Berklee College of Music, and, so far, I am having the best time of my life. Boston has given me so many wonderful opportunities.

Talk to us about the audition process for Fiddlehead Theatre Company’s The Wiz.  What did you experience and how did you feel?

One day, I was in my dorm room, and my friend texted me and asked me if I was going to audition for The Wiz. I hadn’t heard anything about the audition and I had about 2 hours to figure out what my plan of attack before they closed the audition. I was not going to let that opportunity pass me by. I had never auditioned for anything outside of Berklee at the time, and I had never auditioned for a professional production before. I really did not know what to expect.

Luckily, I had been learning the song “Home” from The Wiz for my vocal proficiency at school, so I already knew what I was going to audition with. I was nervous and scared, but my gut told me to get to the theatre and give them my best.

What were some of the challenges for this role?  What were some of the most exciting moments or experiences?

One of the biggest challenges that I faced with this role was trying to embody a child. I read the script over and over again to try and understand why Dorothy would say a line a certain way and then I had to imagine her body language. I really wanted to convince the audience that I was a child even though I was 20 years old at the time.

(From left to right): The Lion (Damien Norfleet*), Dorothy (Quiana Holmes), Scarecrow (Carl-Michael Ogle*), and Tinman (Justin Raymond Reeves) in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's  The Wiz  (Photo Credit:   Matt McKee  ) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association).

(From left to right): The Lion (Damien Norfleet*), Dorothy (Quiana Holmes), Scarecrow (Carl-Michael Ogle*), and Tinman (Justin Raymond Reeves) in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's The Wiz (Photo Credit: Matt McKee) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association).

The most exciting moments were definitely seeing the children in the audience, especially when their faces lit up every time that they saw their favorite character or when they saw a special lighting effect. We were creating magic on stage for them and it only made us have more fun and interact in ways that we never thought we could.

Did you see the NBC’s The Wiz?  If so, what did you think?  If not, why not?

I did see NBC’s production of The Wiz Live! and I was very impressed. It was so cool to see the different visions that each director has for their production of a show. It was NOTHING like our version, but the message came across super clear and was so much fun to watch. That is so inspiring to me. Dorothy was beautiful and the cast was perfect!!

Talk to us about your best friends.  How would you describe them?  How would they describe you?

My best friends are loving, caring, respectful, fun, but, most of all, crazy! They love to have a good time and are always there for me when I need them. They are always cheering me on and I really don’t know what I would do without them. I am so blessed to have such an amazing support system.

I think my friends would describe me as fun, hard-working, determined, loving, and super talkative. If I am just meeting you, you might think I’m quiet and shy, but my friends will let you know that isn’t true!

If you could eat anything for the rest of your life, without gaining any negative health implications, what would it be?

I think this is the hardest question I have ever been asked!! But, if I could eat anything for the rest of my life without any negative health implications, then it would have to be garlic pizza from Boys from Italy. Boys from Italy is a little pizza shop in my home town that serves these GIGANTIC slices of pizza, and I have yet to find a pizza that matches its deliciousness. When I say I LOVE their pizza, I mean that with my whole heart.

What are some of your comforts? 

I have a lot of things that I turn to for comfort. First off, performing. If I haven’t performed in a while, I tend to start feeling anxious and not like myself. I turn to my mother and friends and family in times of need or when I need a laugh.

I love my "Sims." You can find me playing The SIMS 1, 2, 3, or 4. The SIMS is always a must. My mother can definitely testify to this!

Dorothy (Quiana Holmes) embraces The Lion (Damien Norfleet*) in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's  The Wiz  (Photo Credit:   Matt McKee  ) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association).

Dorothy (Quiana Holmes) embraces The Lion (Damien Norfleet*) in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's The Wiz (Photo Credit: Matt McKee) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association).

Last but never least, God. I truly believe he is making things in my life fall into place and I am forever grateful for him.

What have been some of your most fulfilling theatre experiences (as a performer or audience member)?  Why?

By being a live performer and acting in live theatre, things can go terribly wrong on stage. I think some of the most fulfilling moments on stage are being able to recover from whatever is going on around you. I love being able to play off of another character if one of us misses a line, or a prop falls, or the lights don’t cut out after a scene. There is a thrill of saving a moment that has not gone the way it was supposed to.

Also, as an audience member, when you see actors staying in character and refusing the break the moment, it can be so relieving and exciting. I also really love the times off stage, when you are quick-changing into a costume and you’re on-time for your next scene, or sharing a laugh with your castmates and then having to revert into your character when you walk on-stage. Those moments are what make being a performer fun, and you can’t match that with anything else.

If you could take a journey to anywhere (real or fictional), where would you go?  Who would you bring with you?  What adventures would have?

I would definitely want to travel Spain! I’ve wanted to go all of my life and I want to learn the language and culture. I would bring my boyfriend, mom, sister, niece, my 5 closest friends, Audra McDonald, and, last but not least, Melba Moore!

We would want to pay a visit to Casa Batllo, Basilica of the Segrada Familia, Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catalana, and just explore every crevice of Spain. We would eat so much food and dance until our legs hurt. That is my dream journey!!

What is one music lyric that speaks to you at this point in your life?

“Suddenly my world’s gone and changed its face,/ but I still know where I’m going./ I have had my mind spun around in space,/ yet I’ve watching it growing.”

This is from “Home” from The Wiz, and this line has spoken to me ever since I left home for college. Even though my surroundings are changing, I see myself getting closer to what I want to achieve and I see that I am growing up from what I used to be and that is not a bad thing.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I will soon be in rehearsals for a Motown Revue Tour! I will be performing as young Diana Ross and we will be touring all over Canada, and coming back to the northeast of the United States. I am so excited to finally get started!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

I am honored to have been nominated as Best Student Actress. Playing Dorothy in Fiddlehead’s Production of The Wiz was such a dream come true and it has opened up many doors for me.

So, I want to thank Fiddlehead again for the amazing opportunity and all of my friends and family for coming out and supporting me. Thank you so much for this interview, ArtsImpulse, and congratulations to all of the other amazing nominees!! God Bless!

2015 Best Student Actress Nominee: Tricia O'Toole as Helen McCormick in Boston University College of Fine Arts' "The Cripple of Inishmaan"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Tricia O'Toole was brash and daring in her performance as Helen McCormick in Boston University College of Fine ArtsThe Cripple of Inishmaan. While her Helen ridicules, belittles, and bullies, Tricia found opportunities and moments to show Helen's vulnerability, confusion, and growth. We are proud to recognize student actors who are able to create such nuanced characters from bold character choices. 

In her Interview, Tricia talks about her training at BU CFA, the rehearsal process, her guilty pleasures, and her strangest moment onstage. 

Tricia, thank you so much for joining us for our ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.  Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

Thank you, I am very excited to be nominated alongside so many other talented artists. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where I started acting and singing at a very young age and made a habit of it! In high school, I found myself especially drawn to Shakespeare and classical text, and finally landed at my dream school, Boston University College of Fine Arts (BU CFA). I graduated BU CFA in the spring of 2015, and I am currently living (in the tiniest apartment)  in New York City.

Talk to us about the theatre program at Boston University College of Fine Arts. What classes are you taking? How is it preparing you for a career in theatre?

Attending BU CFA has been the most defining decision of my young artistic career so far. BU CFA’s curriculum takes and pulls from a number of different acting techniques. During my time there, I had the opportunity to study Linklater, Stanislavski, Meisner, Grotovski, Commedia dell’ arte, Laban technique, Alexander technique, accents and dialects . . . the list goes on.

The eclectic nature of the program is what drew me to it before college, and it is still the thing that I most appreciate about my training. While starting my career here in NYC is intimidating, to say the least, I am constantly reminding myself to trust in and lean into my training.

What was the rehearsal process like for The Cripple of Inishmaan?  How was it similar or different than other BU CFA shows or other productions that you have worked on?

This process was a blast. It was similar to other processes at BU in that our cast had the opportunity to explore so many different versions of each scene and our individual characters. Our director, Thomas Martin, encouraged us from the very start of the process to make bold, unapologetic choices. We talked a lot about it being a “hostile” piece of theatre, which I wholeheartedly believe. There was nothing timid about the process because there is nothing timid about the characters.

Who is Helen McCormick?  What was her story in The Cripple of Inishmaan?  What was the most fun part to play?

I can’t help but smile at this question. Playing Helen was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Helen is the toughest young woman on Inishmaan (or at least believes herself to be), and the desperate crush of Cripple Billy, who she incessantly bullies throughout the play. Throughout the process, I encountered so many similarities between Helen and me . . . she is always on the defense, but has a lot of softness and vulnerability boiling beneath the surface.

Helen McCormick (Tricia O'Toole) has a quick laugh and a sharp tongue in Boston University College of Fine Arts'  The Cripple of Inishmaan  (Photo Credit: Thomas Martin). 

Helen McCormick (Tricia O'Toole) has a quick laugh and a sharp tongue in Boston University College of Fine Arts' The Cripple of Inishmaan (Photo Credit: Thomas Martin). 

What is the strangest thing that you have been asked to do onstage?  What happened?

While studying abroad in Italy, another actress and I were asked to “milk” ourselves. She tried it out in rehearsal, but needless to say that part didn’t make it to the final performance.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

True crime documentaries. Also, Milkduds.

What character that you have played have you connected to the most?

During my junior year at BU CFA, I was cast in a devised production called The Women of Henry VIII. I was cast as Anne Boleyn and had the opportunity to research and collaboratively develop my character. Each character’s fragile journey was in the hands of the ensemble and because of that I think many of us feel very strong connections to the characters (and historical women) we were cast as.

If someone paid you to live in a cabin in the woods without Internet or cable, how long could you last?  How much money would you want?  What would you take with you?

I think I would last about a month?! I could definitely use some relaxation and quiet, but I would miss my friends and family too much! But I would use that month to read all of the books I always said I would – I’d finish the Harry Potter series, (I know, you guys!), I would love to start a garden and cook my own fresh delicious food.

What is one thing that you wish that your family and friends understood about your life in theatre?

I think my family and friends get it! Theatre has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I feel very fortunate to have the love and support from so many people in my life. But, also, I am sorry for any weddings or funerals that I miss because of rehearsal!