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North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts takes ‘Frozen Jr.’ to YouTube

By Staff | May 6, 2020

It may not be a stage performance but North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts’ “Frozen Jr.” performance is sure to bring a smile.

With the closing of all Florida schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students converted the Disney show that was to have been performed at Arts Alive! next week to a “toilet paper challenge.”

The students, each videoed at home, sing or dance snippets of the musical, tossing a roll of TP to the next actor up in the seamlessly spliced challenge.

They also took part in a discussion with the cast of the same musical playing on Broadway.

Kathy Rivadeneira, NFMAA drama teacher, said in talking to her young performers, she sensed they have had some concerns about how the virus had impacted their lives.

“I felt I needed to do things to keep them connected and keep inspiring them and allow them a place to be creative,” Rivadeneira said. “They feel let down, defeated and sad. I know I am.”

The Broadway cast, which included Keely Beirne, Jake David Smith, Cajai Fellows Johnson, Lauren Chapman, and Allie Pizzo, offered the students words of encouragement, knowledge and experiences, giving them hope during one of the most trying times in this nation’s history.

Rivadeneira said she used some connections she knew in Ogunquit, Maine, where she worked over the summer in a theater, who brought in a member of the cast for a workshop for the students.

“I reached out to her and asked if she could record a video clip she could send to the kids. Instead, she had a Zoom meeting set up with the cast members and I wondered if she could Zoom with us,” Rivadeneira said. “She connected with some of the other cast members and they jumped in as well.”

Rivadeneira said it was very empowering for the kids to see they were normal people who have worked hard and followed their dreams.

As for the toilet paper challenge, Rivadeneira said she had seen them on YouTube and her daughter was given the same type of assignment at her dance studio and thought it would be fun.

“I wanted to find a way to keep our cast members connected somehow. We had begun rehearsals before spring break and everyone was excited about it, but we never went back,” Rivadeneira said. “We wanted to do something fun, even if there wasn’t going to be a show.”

The 10-minute video can be seen on YouTube by searching for “The Frozen Jr. Toilet Paper Challenge!!!North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts.”

The cast also is working on a piece with the students performing a song from the show at home. A sound engineer from New York will mix it with their voices layered on top of each other.

For many of these students, it’s on to high school, where the drama teacher at North Fort Myers high School has already reached. They may have lost their last show at NFMAA, but they have things to look forward to.

As for NFMAA, they already had the set designed and costumes and props made. What becomes of that?

“Potentially, we can do it next year, but it won’t be with the same cast, which is kind of sad,” Rivadeneira said.