Out & About: Cooky teen ‘Family’ in the making

Photos courtesy Joseph Ferriero Various scenes from last year’s Teen Drama
Photos courtesy Joseph Ferriero
Various scenes from last year’s Teen Drama


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

With Teen Drama celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, the local theater group is commemorating the event with a performance of the well-known creepy comedy “The Addams Family.”

“I’ve been a fan of (“The Addams Family”) for a couple of years,” said Teen Drama Co-Director Joe Ferriero. “(Michelle Sarnoski and I) saw this and said, ‘This is perfect for our kids.’

“We saw ‘The Addams Family’ and it’s the perfect mix for the talent that we have.”

“The Addams Family”, taken from the hit television show, will feature an original story and the Teen Drama performance will be the first non-professional debut of ‘The Addams Family’ in New Jersey.

The story revolves around a grown-up Wednesday Addams, who has fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man – whom her parents have never met. Wednesday and the rest of the family then host a dinner for her ‘normal’ boyfriend and his parents.

While the opportunity to become the first nonprofessional debut of “The Addams Family” is certainly exciting for the group, it brings many challenges to the group and its teachers.

“The major challenge – its brand new,” Ferriero said. “There’s nothing else to compare it to. A lot of the songs (in the Broadway performance) aren’t in the new version. There’s no, ‘Let’s pop the CD in.’”

To tackle the challenge, Ferriero said the teachers will put in extra time to master the ins-and-outs of the performance themselves.

“We have to do our research,” Ferriero explained. “We have to map out every moment of the show because it is so new and so fresh. We have to make sure that we do it justice.”

While the teachers will certainly have their work cut out for them, Ferriero believes that the students will be more than prepared for the challenge.

“(The students) feed off the audience and they put 110% into the show,” Ferriero said. “They have a chance to take a character and develop it. This is where they can grow.”

Ferriero said the biggest challenge for the students will be breaking out of their comfort zones.

“They’re high school students and they’re always trying to have this persona to conform to what they believe is cool,” Ferriero said. “They’re always thinking inside of the box and these shows allow them to be who they really are.”

“They’re yearning to do something a little more serious, but this is where they can grow.”

Teen Drama started in 2009 after Ferriero and Sarnoski were approached by a group of parents who sought to find a summer activity for their theater-centered children.

“The parents said, ‘there’s nothing for these theater kids to do in the summer,’” Ferriero explained. “We started with a core group of students and we created a program that was pretty successful.”

Since that first summer, Teen Drama has seen its numbers grow from a community intrigued by the theater.

“Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger,” Ferriero said. “When it came support from everywhere, just to work with the students. do something like this, it.”

As the program has grown exponentially from its 2009-roots, Ferriero said that he, too, has grown from the experience.

“I think I’ve learned that the students in the program can teach me more about theater than I’ve already known,” Ferriero said. “The kids just look at (these performances) and go, ‘How am I going to have fun with this.’”

He added, “They’ve taught me how to have so much more fun. There’s all these bumps in the road but to hear their excitement… they love every minute of it.”

Ferriero believes that Teen Drama has only begun to grasp its full potential.

“I think the company itself has a future,” Ferriero said, adding that they’ve extended and opened a branch in Paramus. “We’re looking at theater companies throughout the state that may be interested. More people want to be a part of it.”

Registration for Teen Drama’s 2014 Summer Program begins in a few weeks, but those searching for early registration can visit teendrama.org/early to get the information emailed to them before it is open to the public.

Teen Drama runs from late June and ends with the performance of “The Addams Family” in the first week of August. For more information, visit www.TeenDrama.org/TD.

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