Switzer and Karmaliani find family through theater


Savannah Switzer

POWERFUL CAST. The Newsies cast of 27 ranges from ages of 10 to 18, all of which are spectacular actors.

Young newspaper sellers on the streets of New York City unite against powerful publishers to protest unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.

From Apr. 14 – May 14, Stages Theatre Company will be performing Disney’s Newsies JR. The play is a 70-minute version of the 2012 Broadway musical and is inspired by the real-life Newsies Strike of 1899.

Sophomore Cerena Karmaliani plays Weisel, also known as “Weasel,” who is an evil character that is conflicted about their role throughout the story. Since her first solo role in second grade, she has been in various school shows, and is performing with Stages Theatre company for the second time. For initial auditions, she learned a dance and prepared a two-minute song. During the callback, she was presented with a script and had to perform multiple songs, scenes, and dances on the spot.

The 27 cast members range from ages 10 to 18. “At the beginning of anything it can be a bit awkward, but as you, near the show, the people in the cast become your family. It is honestly a really great opportunity to build that sense of community with such a diverse group of people,” Karmaliani said.

As part of their pre-show routine, the cast gathers in the makeup room singing songs from the show and eating snacks.

“So far my favorite experience has to have been this past Saturday when we had to evacuate the building due to a false alarm gas leak. We all stood outside and sang to people passing by and it was just an overall memorable experience,” she said.

Junior Savannah Switzer plays Pulitzer’s bookkeeper Bunsen, as well as Ethel, who is part of the Bowery Brigade, and is even featured as a scab in part of the show. Newsies will be her eighth show with the Stages Theatre Company but she has participated in shows even since she was eleven.

“Ever since I can I remember I love to perform. This started out putting on shows for my parents with my sisters. My parents started to sign me up for acting camps and after doing Stages Next Stage theatre camp I auditioned for a show the next year and got in. And I have been at it ever since,” Switzer said.

Her favorite thing about the cast is the family-like dynamic they have. As a team, everyone looks out for each other and makes sure that no one is left behind.

“I remember on a specific time when we had so many people out that I had to go on stage to do a scene with two puppets that I was never originally in. The support that everyone in the cast gave each other and how we persevered is why this is one of my favorite memories,” she said.

For the first few weeks, rehearsals lasted around two hours every day but the cast was only called when needed. As they near the opening of the show, the full cast is called every day for two hours, three hours, and eventually three and half hours during tech week which takes place one week before the first show. The Saturday before opening, the entire cast is called for an eight-hour tech rehearsal. On the Thursday of tech week, they host a preview of the show for friends and family and officially open on Friday.

Go see Newsies between now through May 14 at Hopkins Center for the Arts. Tickets: $15-$25.