From now until the end of the year, we’re highlighting our fundraising campaign, I DREAMED A DREAM, by spotlighting some of our students who say their dreams are coming true thanks to YAA. If you want to help our students realize their dreams, consider a donation today. Every dollar will be matched thanks to our angel donors.

Meet Ava Benson. She’s an 8th grader at Tilden Middle School and has been participating in YAA programs since 2016. She’s performed in The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice, The Sound of Music (Marta), Ragtime, and Annie Get Your Gun. She also was Rafiki in The Lion King JR and the The Cat in the Hat in Seussical JR. This spring, she will play Bert in Mary Poppins JR as part of YAAjunior.


Do you have a scene you're most looking forward to performing? What and why?

I’m equally excited about Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step in Time because I know they will have big dance numbers in the show. Big dance numbers are what I love most about musical theater. They bring so much energy to the cast and the audience. I cannot wait to see what we will do with these scenes!

Do you have any thoughts on what it's like to play a male character? How you'll prepare for this?

I’m actually very excited to play Bert in this production. Oftentimes, acting is pretending to be something or someone that you are not, so I honestly think it will be like playing and preparing for any other role. I do welcome the challenge of changing the way I walk and talk. The biggest change will probably be the way that I sing. My preparation will likely include watching hours of Broadway production clips and YouTube videos. I will also practice in front of the mirror, a lot; this helps me see what I look like while I act. I plan on watching the movie multiple times to pick up on Bert’s tendencies, his reactions to other characters and most importantly, to work on his accent. I’m especially eager to see Mary Poppins Returns this winter where Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Bert’s apprentice, Jack. I’ll be taking plenty of notes!

How did you prepare to get the part/audition?

I originally auditioned for Ms. Andrews and I was quite surprised to be called back for Bert. To prepare for callbacks, I cast my sister as Mary Poppins and spent a lot of time singing and acting with her at home.

Do you think that YAA is helping you accomplish your dreams?

YAA is absolutely helping me accomplish my dreams! It has helped me fully decide that I want a professional career in acting and musical theater. I am so glad YAA came into my life. I am grateful for the years of support and encouragement from Mr. Paul Heinemann, Ms. Randee Hahn and Ms. Kristina Friedgen. I truly appreciate the confidence of Ms. Emma in casting me as Bert. Overall, the program gives me a taste of what it would be like to work as a professional because they treat us like professionals. I will never forget one valuable lesson I learned from working with Mr. Hugh Wooldridge during The Circle of Life in Concert: “If you are early, you are on time; if you are on time, you are late; and if you are late, you are fired.”

Anything else you want to add?

The I Dreamed a Dream campaign is so important. It connects so many students from diverse backgrounds and we come together to share our talents with the community. I love that the fundraising campaign opens doors to talented students who have a passion for the arts but may have financial difficulties that make it hard for them to participate in the programs that YAA has to offer. YAA is extremely important to our community and I am proud to be a part of it all.

Want to donate to the I DREAMED A DREAM campaign? Click here.