Stephen Schwartz Joins Long Island Musical Theater Festival as Guest Artist

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The Long Island Musical Theater Festival (LIMTF) makes its triumphant return. The beloved celebration of art has not taken place since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although LIMTF directors have embraced creativity and flexibility through abbreviated and virtual versions of the festival, Long Island is thrilled to once again welcome such a wonderful opportunity for budding theater makers for the first time in three years. .

Each summer the LIMTF takes place, a guest artist is invited to educate and inspire. This year, festival-goers have the chance to perform and learn from theater legend Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin).

Students will only spend two weeks putting together two productions. The Advanced Intensive will perform Pippin apple while the intermediate intensive will put divine spell. Through the music and lyrics he composed, Schwartz will serve as a guide through both productions.

“I’m very happy to join. I grew up on Long Island, and I always enjoy working with young people and especially students who aspire to be involved in musical theater, so it’s kind of a comeback. to sources for me,” Schwartz said. . “In addition to me, my book author on Nasty Winnie Holzman also grew up on Long Island.”

While Schwartz no longer lives on Long Island, his parents and children, whom he visits frequently, still do. He not only anticipates the opportunity to be part of LIMTF this year, but also to visit his family.

Steven Altinel, founder and artistic director of LIMTF, is thrilled to have Schwartz join him on Long Island this summer.

The shows presented by LIMTF are decided based on this year’s guest artist. Stephen Schwartz being this year’s artist, Altinel was ready to mount productions of Pippin apple and divine spell for multiple reasons.

“For me, the educational aspect is just as important as the performance element, and I feel like that is missing in a lot of other community theaters where students are needed to fill roles. ‘they get to know these composers,’ says Altinelle.

Altinel looks forward to Schwartz guiding students through such detailed shows.

When Schwartz was approached by LIMTF and asked if he would like to join as a guest artist for the summer, he said he would be more than happy to do so. He remembers how, a few years ago, LIMTF set up The Hunchback of Notre Dame, of which he is the lyricist.

“These shows are really made for these students. I hope these students gain experience in the craft in terms of learning what they want to do, which is to get involved in the musical theatre,” Schwartz said.

At LIMTF 2016, Altinel called on Heidi Blickenstaff (Something rotten!, [title of show]) while students worked on a production of Cabaret. Blickenstaff was able to offer his expertise and guide the students through a comprehensive critique of Kander and Ebb’s songs, ultimately refining the style.

Altinel has been working in the summer musical theater camp space since graduating from college with his best friend Nathan Brewer, executive director of LIMTF. He remembers watching theater programs and feeling inspired.

“I wanted to do it on a bigger scale. I wanted to do musical theater pieces that kids weren’t exposed to for a variety of reasons. Whether it was songs that were too difficult, not popular, or songs that public schools were perhaps not open to doing,” Altinel noted.

Altinel has been a choir director in high school for seventeen years and has an equal passion for students in the choral space as for students in the musical theater space. It aimed to bring the two communities together in a way that Long Island had never seen before.

“It evolved into what it is now more of a summer stock model. We do two productions in two weeks for high school and college students,” Altinel said. “What it does is it gives students who aren’t lead roles on the main stage a solo opportunity to have something to work on. So it was really important to me that every member of the festival had kind of a moment to shine.”

The LIMTF has certainly grown since its first production of The secret garden in 2013, gaining community recognition and support over time.

“I think it’s a really good organization. I love what they do. I love how they support their students. I was blessed when I grew up on Long Island to be in an area where I’ve had a lot of support for my own aspirations and I think it’s great that this organization exists to do that, so I’m happy to be a part of it,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz recognizes the advantage Long Island students hold with their location.

“Long Island, with its proximity to New York City, has always been fertile ground for people interested in musical theater as well as music professions in general,” Schwartz said. “I think the Long Island Musical Theater Festival is carrying on a tradition. But of course, with its pre-professional training program now, it provides a resource that didn’t exist before.”

Altinel is proud of the opportunities offered to its students and recognizes how lucky they are.

“My children sang the finale of “Light” by next to normal with the woman who won the Tony Award for this show, which doesn’t happen anywhere else on Long Island,” Altinel said.

Altinel hopes that with the training provided and the accompaniment of these students, they will feel ready to embark on a theatrical career.

“These kids who decide to go further, I think, are really ahead of the game,” Altinel said.

Even when the world shut down and in-person training was impossible, the LIMTF was determined to carry on.

In the summer of 2020, a completely virtual program was organized with training in singing, acting and choreography.

“It was clearly not optimal, but we adapted as best we could,” Altinel said.

Last year, students had the chance to learn from Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, Big Fish) who taught a masterclass during an abbreviated week-long version of LIMTF. Lippa instructed the students as they performed, providing an invaluable learning opportunity and experience.

Altinel recalls the momentum of LIMTF before the pandemic and notes how difficult recruiting can be coming back from such a difficult time.

“It really was a bit like starting over again as far as recruitment goes. But now I’m happy to say we’re at our peak number. We still have a few spots left but it’s exciting to get back into it and I can say just having Stephen Schwartz involved is exciting not only for me but for the students as well. I think things are going to be really exciting and exciting once we get everything in place,” Altinel said. .

Altinel notes that of course there is always work to be done.

“We’re really trying to bring a community together, I feel like Long Island is so big. I’m working really hard to bring in a more diverse cast, so that’s something we’re really looking forward to changing in the next few years. .”

Altinel is proud of the work done by LIMTF to come back from the pandemic and look forward to this summer. Schwartz feels the same way after several years of acting and training programs having to be creatively abnormal.

“I get to see the shows that have come back now on Broadway etc. and just the ability to see live performances in general, I think that was something that we all took a lot for granted, I definitely did. before the pandemic,” Schwartz said. . “It’s a particularly nice feeling to be back in live theater and this training program.”

The Long Island Musical Theater Festival begins August 1, 2022. You can see the main production of Pippin apple on Friday August 12 and Saturday August 13, and the junior production of divine spell Saturday August 13.

For more information about the Long Island Musical Theater Festival, visit http://limtf.org/.

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