Talking to Anya reminds us of starting out in the world of Musical Theatre, before ✨Broadway and Lincoln Center✨ came around, we had the opportunity of performing at an equally as professional and prestigious place, ✨The Random Farms Kids Theater✨. I (Tehya) was around 9 and Maya was around 6 and we took a drive out to Westchester from NYC to audition for 🌹"Beauty and The Beast Jr"🌹 directed by a woman named Anya Wallach, who was supposedly the best director in town for 🚸kids🚸. After one of the most friendly, but professional auditions we had been to, we were cast as a Silly Girl and ☕Chip☕, respectively.
Our 👨dad👨 drove us out to Westchester for rehearsals every other 🌃night🌃 for about a 🗓️month🗓️ (thank you so much, you're the best!) where we each rehearsed our parts in studios right across the hall from each other, and when showtime came and I had a bunch of quick changes, Maya was absolutely no help at all. She was stuck in her Chip box.
After 🌹"Beauty and the Beast Jr"🌹 we knew we wanted to be more involved in Random Farms Kids Theater, but instead of being onstage we wanted to learn from the best, and experience what it would be like to be 🎦behind the scenes🎦 of a musical. We each went on to assistant direct other musicals with Anya over the next couple years and learned more than what we ever could have 💭imagined💭. The tools she gave us helped us to accomplish some of the projects we have been able to do for 🌟13 Wishes🌟, quite recently.
Anya gave us the support, the platform, and the courage to learn on and beyond the stage. She provides a 🏠home🏠 for kids who want to learn, grow, and experience real, professional stage productions in their youth. Anya is brilliant, kind, caring, and one of the best teachers we have ever had the pleasure of learning from.
How do you know the Ya Sisters? I met Maya and Tehya at The Random Farms Kids’ Theater (located in Westchester County, NY), the non profit organization I founded 22 years ago. They both performed in shows there.
Dream Job:I kind of have my dream job! I started Random Farms when I was 16 years old, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I love helping kids achieve their dreams. In 2015, I published a book series called “Stagestruck.” Being an author was a dream job I’d thought about since second grade, so I feel pretty professionally fulfilled right now:)
What do YA do? I am the Executive Director at Random Farms.
How did you get where you are? By delegating. I was really stuck for a while when I tried to do everything myself.
When you were a kid did you always know that you wanted to be involved in the theater community in some way? Yup. Ever since about third grade. That was when I started writing scripts for kids to act out on the playground.
We have such great memories of being part of Random Farms Kids Theater when we were younger, did you ever think when you were creating it as a hub for kids who wanted to perform that it would become as big of a youth theater company as it has? I love that you guys have memories of Random Farms! Both of you were so talented and dedicated, and super fun to work with, even when you were little:) When I first started the theater in my parent’s basement, I had no idea it would get so big. I named it Random Farms because that was the name of the street I lived on and the theater was literally for the kids who lived on my block. If I had known it would expand so much, I probably would have called it something else lol.
Favorite Broadway Show:Annie!
Favorite audition story. When I was 12 years old, I auditioned for a local production of Annie. I found an advertisement in the newspaper and begged my parents to let me try out. They knew it was my favorite show and eventually relented. My mother suggested I do a cartwheel when it was my turn to go in the audition room. She doesn’t have a theater background and I think that seemed most sensible to her:) I ended up getting cast as an orphan, but I did not do any cartwheels to get the part lol.
What is your go to audition song? I don’t audition anymore but, back in the day when I was doing musical theater, I used to sing “Home” from Beauty and the Beast.
If you could play any role regardless of gender or age what would you play? Truly Scrumptious from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” I want to fly in the car!
What are your thoughts on diversity integration on Broadway and in tv/film? I am a big fan of nontraditional casting. This is something we try to do in our shows at Random Farms. too. We pay less attention to physical attributes and more attention to a performer’s ability to embody a role. The more diversity we see in professional productions, whether that is on Broadway or in film, the more inspired young people will be to take on those roles in their own communities. I think it’s important for casting directors to remember that we don’t have to stick to the way characters looked in Disney cartoons or storybooks.
Do you have a good luck ritual? Nope.
Favorite stage makeup? Hmmmm…. I don’t perform on stage anymore and I don’t wear makeup in real life!
How would your cast-mates describe you?
3. A little bit strange
What’s your advice to incoming performers like you? I see a lot of young performers who are really focused on playing particular roles. While I completely understand how exciting it can be to get cast in the part you want, my advice would be to try to open your mind to having experiences you weren’t expecting. Theater is a great place to make new friends, try new things, and go outside your comfort zone. When I was growing up, I remember passing on shows when I didn’t get the part I wanted. I think I may have missed out on some cool opportunities because of that.
How do you balance all that you do? Now that I’m a “grown-up,” the challenge is balancing work with my personal life. Theater is demanding and engaging! ---and for many years I got so caught up in it that I was working all the time. I didn’t stop on the weekends, or at night; I was just always trying to finish what I was doing and get to the next project. These days, I work really hard at setting boundaries for myself. I know how important it is to take care of myself, to pursue my hobbies, and to have a life outside of work. If I want to be involved with theater for the rest of my life (which I do!), I can’t burn myself out.
How do you balance work and passions? This is a tricky one for me because work is my passion. But like I said above, I needed to learn to separate work from play and discover passions outside of my career. That means sticking to regular work hours, not checking email on my phone when I’m not working, making sure I take 2 days as my weekend each week (even if it’s not Saturday and Sunday), and trying to create a culture at my company that encourages all the staff to do the same.
What inspires you? Knowing that every person can make a difference. That I don’t have to do something big to change the world that the little things you do that effect even one person’s life are super important.
Who inspires you? People who think “out of the box.” People who are able to find creative solutions to challenging problems.
Role Model:Hillary Clinton
What person around your age would you vote for to be president right now? Oh, gosh, I’m not sure. Maybe anyone besides who is currently president...
What do you wish people knew more about? The importance of arts education for young people.
What would you tell yourself one year ago? To try the “Two Boots” pizza place by my house. How could I have gone so long without going in?!
BEST part of life:Getting to start fresh each morning.
Words of wisdom:Don’t operate from a place of fear.
Favorite activity/thing to do:Swing dancing!
Favorite place to be:Kingdom Trails, VT
What do you wish people knew more about you? That I don’t like spicy food. No, I don’t want to try that Jalapeno pepper.
…what about our world? Getting off of social media and connecting with people IRL.
What is the one thing you wish there was a cure to? Migraines.
…okay another!!! Narcissism.
How do you give back? I feel like the most impact I have in my community is through the work I do with Random Farms.
Favorite Snapchat filter: I don’t use Snapchat. Can I cheat and use an Instagram filter? Cuz I love Amaro.
Favorite self care thing to do where you live? Taking a dance class.
Five things you need in your dressing room or just your life in general.
1. Yoga pants
3. Chocolate croissants
4. Swing dancing
5. A good book I haven’t read before
What project are you really excited about right now? We have a production of “Into the Woods” with our high school students that will take place at the Paramount in Peekskill in December I can’t wait to see that. And then we are doing a new youth version of “The Addams Family” in January and February at the Tarrytown Music Hall, which I think will be fun for all ages. Oh, and next week we have auditions for our annual industry showcase, which is a free event to help kids get “discovered” by agents and casting directors. Maya, I think that’s when we first met!
My other big project is the creation of an outreach video. A lot of people don’t know Random Farms is a non-profit or about the work we do in the community, like providing scholarships, doing free performances at nursing homes and children’s hospitals, and providing discounted tickets to low income students to come see our shows. I’m hoping people will see the video and be inspired to help support us...
What do you see for yourself and RFKT in the future? One day, I would love for Random Farms to have its own theater. As crazy as it sounds, I see myself running Random Farms until the day I die. It’s enriched my life in so many ways. Like allowing me to meet the Ya Sisters!
We love Anya and we love how she makes the theater such a welcoming place! Check out Kirrilee Berger, another musical theater lover doing wonderful things in the world!