On Thursday morning I attended Hunter College Elementary School's sixth grade production of Once on this Island, directed by Liane Tomasetti. I've known Liane for eight years now, and we've worked together on a number of projects over that time. She's been working at Hunter for this academic year, and this production marked something of a culmination of her work.
From the start, Liane thought carefully about the subject matter of the musical, the casting choices, and the overall experience for her students. Her deep and intentional reflection about this project over the last nine months showed in the production. Students were having a great time on stage, they understood the story they were telling, and they knew where they were supposed to be and when they were supposed to be there. Costume changes, singing, dancing, acting, playing instruments, all executed with precision and joy. It was really exciting watching these kids work, particularly given that most of the audience members were kids from other schools. The performers did not hesitate in front of their peers, and that was so gratifying to witness. I was moved repeatedly by their commitment to the stakes of the story and the plights of their characters.
For creating an aesthetically sound production that kept my attention from start to finish, for holding herself and her young collaborators to high artistic standards, and for establishing and maintaining a working space where her young collaborators felt the freedom to create and perform with joy, Liane Tomasetti is the artist I admire for this week.