Freddie G Focus: Lāna'i Academy of Performing Arts

Freddie G Focus: Lāna'i Academy of Performing Arts

Every year at our Junior Theater Festivals (JTF), a special group of theater educators are selected for the Freddie G Fellowship. Created to highlight exceptionally devoted teachers and give them resources for their professional development, the Freddie G Fellowship sends its recipients to New York City for four days of classes, workshops, and shows. In addition, these Fellows receive a $5,000 grant to be used for their theater programs in whatever capacity they deem necessary.

We're putting the spotlight on one of last year's Freddie G Fellows: Matt Glickstein and the Lāna'i Academy of Performing Arts (LAPA). Glickstein talked to us about the impact the Freddie G Fellowship had on LAPA and himself.

In 2013, Glickstein founded LAPA, the only after-school arts program on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. Open to students from kindergarten to 12th grade, LAPA's mission is "to create a safe environment outside of school where students can explore their creativity and feel a sense of acceptance and belonging while learning valuable life-skills."

"I've seen students begin our program in Kindergarten as puppies in 101 Dalmatians KIDS and blossom into talented actors who have become leads in productions like Aladdin JR. and Lion King JR.," remarked Glickstein. 

In 2016, Glickstein first learned about the Freddie G Fellowship while researching the Junior Theater Festival. With the help of a grant, LAPA staff attended JTF West in 2017. Glickstein returned determined to get students to the 2019 JTF West.

"It took two years of recruiting, fundraising, and planning to assemble our group of 19 kids and 14 chaperones, and we were able to attend JTF West in 2019."


Thank you to the Lanai community for supporting to get our students to Sacramento represent our island at the Junior Theater Festival (JTF)! LAPA was awarded Excellence in Acting for their 15 minute performance of Shrek the Musical Jr.. Adam Purdy and Alekah Pascua were selected as All-Stars and got to participate in a special performance on the main stage. Nathan Amby, Adam Purdy, Kami Shimokawa, and Madison Kaneakua-Egan placed 3rd in the Tech Olympics (a timed race of changing costumes, sets, and props) with an extremely impressive time of 2 minutes and 4 seconds. They showcased their hard work alongside 42 theater groups from all over America and even South Korea (a total of 1732 participants). Our Executive director, Matt Glickstein, was selected to receive the Broadway Junior Spirit Award as part of something called the Freddie G Fellowship, where 8 teachers are selected from around the country. For theatre instructors, the Freddie G Fellowship is a highly coveted honor. Created by Music Theatre International CEO and Tony Honors for Excellence recipient Freddie Gershon, the fellowship welcomes a select group of theatre instructors to be part of an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City each summer for the opportunity to work one-on-one with industry professionals in a weekend of seminars, master classes, and Broadway shows. In addition, each of the participating teachers receives $5,000 from Gershon and his wife Myrna to enhance their arts program. Matt is extremely honored to be given this award, and is so grateful to the LAPA staff, parents, kids, and all who have continuously supported the LAPA program. JTF was awesome and we already want to go back!

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Hoping the Freddie G Fellowship would make an impact on LAPA, Glickstein applied and was selected. The experience introduced him to a special new community with bonds that have lasted beyond his time in New York City. A group text with the 2019 Fellows is still going!

"The Freddie G Fellows feel like one big family," explained Glickstein. "And even though I'm separated by more distance than most, everyone is so friendly and willing to seemingly answer any question at any time and help in any way they can."

"Being a part of the Fellowship has given me extra inspiration, motivation, and support - something that is often needed when things get difficult," he added.

The Freddie G Fellowship has boosted the profile of LAPA. The organization has hired more staff members and started offering dance classes. With the fellowship grant money, LAPA was able to purchase moving platforms that converted into stairs - a versatile tool for staging future productions. Glickstein hopes to see the growth continue and for LAPA to have its own theater someday.

"The national recognition of our program has certainly helped our recruitment, fundraising, and grant writing," said Glickstein. "In addition, the community support, which was already great, is at an all-time high."

With LAPA artistic director Simon Tajiri, Glickstein co-wrote a new musical Day of Conquest: A Story of Kaulula'au, which was performed in October by LAPA. It tells the legend of Kaulula'au, a mischievous boy who is banished to Lanai for his bad behavior but ultimately fights the island's evil spirits and learns a lesson. Day of Conquest is currently being adapted into a 30-minute version for Hawaii Theater for Youth. A cast album is available for streaming.

Over four years of development, LAPA students were integral to creating the show. They gave feedback on initial drafts, added their own dialogue, and even created a melody that became part of the show.

"Our goal was to give the kids a chance to have a creative relationship with the story, to make it their own," said Glickstein. "Our hope was to grow their love for their island and their sense of responsibility as storytellers."

With a production of Frozen KIDS coming up in February, LAPA is certainly showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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