Tony Award Winning Adriane Lenox (Doubt, Kiss Me Kate, The Blind Side) and Broadway dreamboat Benjamin Walker (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), will lead a group of Broadway actors performing in support of an international not-for-profit arts organization created by some of their colleagues from the Great White Way. ZARA AINA's Big Ol' Fancy Pants Benefit will take place today, November 26th, 2012.
Zara Aina, founded by Broadway actors Lucas Caleb Rooney (Golden Boy, Country Girl) and Bryce Pinkham (Ghost, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) pairs New York acting students with at-risk children in Madagascar to create original pieces of physical theatre based in Malagasy folktales. In the Spring of 2013, their efforts will culminate in a national tour of Madagascar, during which the children will deliver educational aid and culturally relevant performances to communities in need.
Caissie Levy (Ghost, Hair, Wicked) and Drama Desk Award Winner Lorenzo Pisoni (Humor Abuse, Henry IV) will also lend their talents to the evening. Jazz Recording Artist Katie Schutt as well as Jon Batiste's Stay Human Band will also perform live. The evening will be staged at the Five Angels Theater (789 10th Ave.) tonight, November 26th at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased at zaraaina.org, or through eventbrite.
The ultimate mission of Zara Aina, which means "Share Life" in Malagasy, is to provide children with tools to succeed as students and story tellers by delivering school supplies to their villages and by producing their original works of theatre.
"Two years ago, I traveled impetuously to Madagascar looking for lemurs and bio diversity," says Rooney, "What I got instead was my membership in humanity: a connection to the joy, hope, despair, and wonder that binds us all, contingent only on giving it away as freely as you receive it."
Inspired by his experience, Rooney has since assembled a highly accomplished group of volunteers from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, The Juilliard School, Yale School of Drama, 52nd Street Project, The Studio New York, and The Actors Center, who have all worked extensively as educators and theater builders. By partnering with Akany Fitahiana, a community center and organization that serves street children in Antananarivo, Zara Aina has been able to begin interactively working with 14 children through webcam and Vimeo. Their team has further developed a five year plan to continue their mission by establishing a self-sustaining arts and educational space for children to learn, promote, and showcase local performance practices in Madagascar.
Zara Aina is led by Megan Cramer (Director of Education), Dana Gross (Managing Director), Bryce Pinkham (Executive Director), Dina Razafindrazaka (Director of Outreach), and Lucas Caleb Rooney (Artistic Director).
Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski