Are you a theatre lover trying to find your voice? Then there’s a new film that’s perfect for you called Speech & Debate!
Based on the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway play, SPEECH & DEBATE follows three teenagers brought together by a series of mishaps. Frustrated by the hypocrisy they see in their parents, teachers, and the entire school board, the unlikely trio set out to find a common truth and make their voices heard as they revive a defunct school club and take on the world. Blogging, blackmail and Broadway belting drive the trio’s bond in this wickedly funny comedy.
Diwata is a girl who is passionate about theatre, but is not thrilled with the casting of the school’s production of Once Upon a Mattress and she wants to do something about it! Solomon wants to start writing about subjects that will spark discussion and controversy in the school newspaper, rather than topics that no one will talk about. Howie wants to form a gay-straight alliance at school, but the school board turns down his proposal. These three teenagers from different backgrounds band together to form a speech and debate club in order to make their voices heard! On their journey together they learn about themselves and make an impact on their community. This film inspires teens to let their voice be heard!
The movie premiere of Speech & Debate was held at the American Airlines Theatre in New York City. I represented Camp Broadway and gathered the scoop directly from the stars! Cast members from the movie including Sarah Steele, Austin P. McKenzie, Liam James, and Roger Bart, as well as numerous Broadway stars stopped to chat with me about their exciting lives and offer up some great advice on how to let your voice be heard as a young person today. It was an experience I will never forget. After interviewing the stars, it was a real treat to watch the premiere on a special big screen on a Broadway stage! The film was hilarious and had the audience laughing the entire time. It was very motivational and inspiring as well! Attendees were encouraged to support the arts by using #FINDYOURVOICE, and sending postcards pledging support for the arts to Washington, D.C.
Speaking with the stars of the movie and Broadway was invaluable–they offered up some amazing advice for our Camp Broadway kids. The most important takeaway is to find YOUR voice…you never know, YOU could change the WORLD!
Here are some of the interesting stories, and advice given to me from the stars. I loved getting to hear about their experiences and realize they have been through some of the same things many of us go through. I hope you are as inspired by their stories as I am and decide to always let your voice and heart be heard!
What advice do you have for kids who have dreams to be on Broadway someday?
Courtney Reed (Princess Jasmine from Aladdin): “I would have told my younger self when I was a teenager to have more confidence. Confidence, but not being cocky or self-centered. If you believe in yourself, then you can be fearless, and people are very attracted to that.”
Laura Osnes (Bandstand, Grease, South Pacific, Anything Goes): “There are three things. First is beyourself. It sounds so cliché, but only you can be you. Everyone has something special to offer and the minute you try to be what they want you to be or be someone else, it’s fake, and it’s artificial. At the end of the day, being truthful to who you are is going to get you far. And then be patient. Know that you are young and you have your whole life ahead of you and tons of opportunities. And the third one is to work hard. You do have to work hard for it; you can’t take rejection personally. Keep training, keep studying, keep learning, and get a lot of experience, but always go for the dream if it’s in your heart.”
Will Roland (Dear Evan Hansen): “You should work hard and be nice to everyone because both of those things will pay off in ways that you can’t even understand!”
Lucy DeVito (Speech & Debate): “Work on the things you are driven to and really love. Show your passion and the stories you want to tell.”
How did you get started in show business?
Kate Wetherhead (Legally Blonde the Musical): “I saw a community theatre production of West Side Story in my hometown in Burlington, Vermont and that was it, I was hooked.”
Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Tuck Everlasting, Newsies): “I grew up with older siblings who acted and it was just easier for my parents rather than carpool to just drop all the kids off at whatever show my two older sisters were doing.”
Ben Cook (Billy Elliot, Tuck Everlasting): I got started when I was
about 9 years old. I was a dancer first, my dance teacher said you should take up performing and acting so I started doing community theatre and regional theatre and I then slowly just made my way.”
Amitoz Singh (Speech & Debate): When I was a child I always wanted to act so my mom enlisted me in local theatre, then I did my first play, then I did professional, then signed with a talent agency. This movie really speaks to me. I did debate in high school and had some troubles with nervousness but speech and debate really helped me get over it.”
Anthony Rosenthal (Falsettos, Newsies): “I was doing theatre because of my sister, she was doing it and she really inspired me a lot and I saw Newsies on Broadway and that really got me really passionate about it and two years later I was in the tour!”
Luca Padovan (School of Rock): My first job was the Wizard of Oz, it was a community theatre show. I played a munchkin in every performance. I knew I wanted to be an actor by that feeling I had on stage, even though I didn’t have any lines, just being up there with all my friends, getting to sing all those songs, that’s when I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Carley Gendell (School of Rock): “I did what my sister did, because I’m a copycat! My sister did theatre. I went to Broadway auditions for the fun of it and I did School of Rock and got pretty far! It happens just like that!”
Isabella Russo (School of Rock): “Both my parents are actors, my dad was in the touring company of Wicked. I was singing a lot of Broadway tunes. School of Rock was my first professional job on Broadway.”
Ethan Khusidman (School of Rock, Soul Doctor, Chaplain): “My first production was the tour of Les Miserables. I had acting coaches before that, but that was when I really decided I wanted to be an actor.”
What advice do you have for kids who want to go into show business?
Sarah Steele (Speech & Debate): “Be yourself, I felt like I spent a long time trying to be somebody else and I should have just tried to have more confidence in who I was than trying to be other girls who weren’t me.”
Roger Bart (Speech & Debate): “Study, study, train, train, and practice!”
Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Tuck Everlasting, Newsies): “Try to stay as true to yourself as possible as a performer. I think the things that make you special are the things that make you different, or rather the things that make you different are the things that make you special!”
Kate Wetherhead (Legally Blonde): “Keep a sense of humor, be fearless, and be nice!”
Ben Cook (Billy Elliot, Tuck Everlasting): “If you really want to do it, and it’s something you are truly passionate about, do it no matter what, create!”
What’s your favorite part about performing on Broadway?
Diego Lucano (School of Rock): “I just love the audience and how they make us feel so special. Every time they applaud it’s like they are saying a job well done.”
Carly Gendell (School of Rock): “I like the people! I like meeting people backstage, showing people backstage, and seeing friends and family when they come to see the show!”
What was your favorite part about filming Speech and Debate?
Austin P. McKenzie (Speech & Debate): “It was the first film I had ever been in and I think my favorite part was learning all of the technical aspects of it, as well as learning the material. I think it’s very timely! It’s a cute, nice, lovely film, and it’s very timely too.”
What advice do you have for kids who want to become actors someday?
Austin P. McKenzie (Speech & Debate): “Do what you love, and what you love is going to find you!”
Ronnie Cho (VP Public Affairs MTV Networks, Candidate for NYC Council, former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement under President Obama): “Start at a young age, get in front of your theatre class, your music class, I think it’s so important that we continue to fund our schools programs, music education, arts education. It’s so important for American culture. It’s one of the most familiar things people have of the entire world our music, our art, our literature, performances and so important for kids to have access to that. Just get started, get involved, don’t be shy, and have fun – most important!”
You can purchase Speech & Debate right now on iTunes by CLICKING HERE.