We are so thrilled to announce that one of our very own, Mateo Ferro, will star in The Kennedy Center's production of In the Heights this spring. Mateo studied at our Summer Performing Arts Intensive in 2017, lighting up the stage as Usnavi in our own production of In the Heights. Mateo attends Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County, Maryland and is 16 years-old.
Mateo sat down to chat with us right after the news spread on Playbill and BroadwayWorld, etc. Here's what he had to say.
Mateo highlights from our Summer 2017 production of In the Heights, where he played Usnavi.
If you'd like to follow in Mateo's footsteps, Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives are registering now for 2018. Learn more here.
1.) Tell us the full story of how you got cast in The Kennedy Center's production of In the Heights!
Well it all started from a great guy named Rolando Sanz, you all know the name. Well, he’s just the most genuine guy and I have the most respect for him. He sent me the audition notice saying that they sent it to him and he thought of me. I couldn’t be more thankful for that and I owe that to him. After that I spent hours and hours preparing. Thank you to Mandy Brown, Paul Hienemann, and Saidou Sosseh for helping me prepare! My initial audition was at The Kennedy Center and it went so well! Im so thankful for that. A couple weeks passed and I received an email from the casting director asking me to attend a call back in New York that week. So, my beautiful mother and I did the trip and to say the least I put everything and anything into that call back and got the call the next day!
2.) Tell us about what role you will play in this production of ITH. What's the character like? How will you prepare?
I will be playing SONNY in In the Heights. He’s Usnavi's, the protagonist of the story, younger cousin. He's a scrappy kid who thinks a lot of himself. He jokes around a lot but stays true to himself and everyone around him. He’s just that role that everyone will fall in love with...well, that is if I do it right! I’ve memorized my lines and solos mainly because I did this role at my high school, CHStage! But yes, I had to re-learn most of it and have learned my music parts with my vocal teacher. I just really want to be prepared and have the role locked down before the start of rehearsal because, as you can see from the cast list, these are the real deal actors. Im just a small town kid from Maryland dreaming about these kind of things!
3.) What YAA productions have you been in and what was your role in each? How long have you been involved in YAA?
A scholarship opportunity started off my journey with YAA. I received it last summer for YAA's Summer Intensive from The Jim & Carol Trawick Foundation. I thank both of these beautiful organizations for the opportunity because it had such huge impact on my aspirations and drive for theatre! I performed in YAA's production of In the Heights as Usnavi! By far my favorite production I have done to date. Lots of memories that I cherish from that experience!
4.) How did you learn you loved the performing arts?
I've always loved singing! I just had really bad stage fright. But it all changed in the 7th grade when I did a class project show. I was in the ensemble in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and had such a blast. After that I decided to audition for my middle schools production of Aladdin. I got the part of Aladdin, the funny thing is that the one role I did not want was the lead because I was so nervous. But it ended up being a blast and what started this journey, and I haven’t stopped since. Huge thanks to Jerilyn Nacht, my director as a kid, she really started my drive for theatre. Also, shout out to CHStage!
5.) What are you most excited about for the ITH experience?
The entire thing!! Thats all I can say. From the second I step into my first rehearsal all the way to my last bow. I'm already sad thinking about it ending and I haven’t even started. I want to learn and soak up as much as I can from it so I can grow even more.
6.) What have you learned from YAA that has prepared you for this experience (from audition to rehearsals to performance)?
I learned the drive that it takes to do this professionally and seriously. Their Summer Performing Arts Intensive drained me out but they taught me to keep pushing and I did and it was so worth it. Director of the program, Terry Eberhardt, truly taught me what it meant to be a true professional. Not as in a paid actor, but as in the attitude. I thank them a lot for that.
7.) Anything interesting you'd like to tell us that we haven't asked about?
Come see the show if it isn’t sold out yet!!! I want to see people I know!! But also, I really want to share with everyone that wants to do this or anything professionally in the future, that it takes a lot. It’s more than just wishing and dreaming about it. It's about the work and sacrifice you put into it. If there's one thing I think separates me from the rest, it’s that I’d do anything for it and I do. I work so hard for this. It is not handed to you. Ever. You have to work and work and I promise you will get something out of it. Be different from the rest.
8.) And finally, where do you hope all of this leads?
Wow, thats actually a strong question! I hope it opens doors for me to work even harder and grow. You never have a peak so I want to prove that and keep working and growing working and growing for the rest of my life. I want to be a performer for the rest of my life and I hope this starts something for me. I really do.
We do too, Mateo! You're certainly on your way and we couldn't be prouder. If you'd like to see Mateo in the upcoming productions, tickets are available at the Kennedy Center's website. An extra show has been added but tickets are going quickly, so act fast!