SPOTLIGHT ON: JENNIFER DAMIANO
Local Teen Nominated For Tony
Random Farms Kids Theater to the Great White Way
Jennifer Damiano, age seventeen and a native of White Plains, is nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the new Broadway musical Next To Normal. She plays "Natalie," the angst-ridden teen daughter in a dysfunctional family and has been performing with the show since its Off-Broadway run last year, where she originated the role. The show garnered a total of 11 nominations; Ms. Damiano's is for Best Featured Actress In A Musical. This marks Ms. Damiano's second appearance on Broadway, having made her debut in the original cast of Spring Awakening. While Ms. Damiano may be touted as this year's break-out new star, the young actress has been honing her skills more locally since she was a little girl.
Ms. Damiano was just ten years old when played an orphan in the chorus of Annie at The Tarrytown Music Hall. She was performing with The Random Farms Kids Theater, a Westchester-based non-profit children's theater.
“Annie was the first show I ever did,” Ms. Damiano recalls. “There were so many girls who auditioned! I felt very special to have the opportunity to perform. I remember going into the dressing room for the first time. It was such a good feeling to see my name on the door and my costume hung up.”
This led to several starring roles with Random Farms over the next four years: Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Marian Paroo in The Music Man, Cinderella in Cinderella and Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical. She also spent two years performing in The American Girl Review at the American Girl Place in NYC.
”Random Farms was the perfect place to grow up performing. I was always impressed with the professionalism of the shows and the fact that every performer was treated with respect. I learned that you have to have fun and be yourself, on stage and off. As a Broadway performer, that is still so important for me to remember.”
Damiano is not the only student from Random Farms to appear on Broadway. Since the company's inception in 1995, over thirty of its young clients have performed on The Great White Way - a staggering number considering the limited number of roles there are for children. Currently, three Random Farms performers can be seen in Mary Poppins, two in Shrek and one each in Waiting for Godot and West Side Story.
Anya Wallach, founder and Artistic Director of Random Farms, directed Ms. Damiano in all five shows during her time at Random Farms. "Jennifer has always been a gifted performer. It was a pleasure to watch her flourish as a singer and actress. It's amazing how far she's come in a relatively short period of time."
Besides attending the Tony Awards, Damiano will perform on “Good Morning America” on CBS and at The VISA Signature Tony Awards Concert.
So how does it feel to be nominated for a Tony?
“I can't believe I'm getting these opportunities. The material for Next to Normal is so close to my heart, and to perform it on television is such a gift. As for the nomination, I do believe I've worked hard, but I never thought that I would be recognized to this extent. I feel like I've been taken seriously, which is the greatest feeling as a young actress. I am proud that I was true to myself throughout the entire process.”
Ms. Damiano is the first Random Farms alumnus to be nominated for a Tony. Wallach hopes she isn't the last: "Jennifer's nomination was a proud moment for everyone who knows her - especially the kids at RFKT. So many of them look up to her, and I hope this will inspire them to work hard, train and follow their dreams."