Amanda Sprecher: saving Broadway

She doesn't want to reveal the details just yet, but 15-year-old Amanda Sprecher is hoping to save Broadway.

The Manheim, Pa., home-schooler has been selected for the first Broadway Kids Advisory Board, a panel of 30 young theater fans from around the country. "We're trying to make Broadway better for kids, to get kids interested in Broadway and seeing shows," she said. "We're trying to attract a younger audience."

The panel, consisting entirely of youngsters ages 11 to 16, met for the first time in February, coinciding with the 13th annual Kids Night on Broadway, when they also had a chance to meet Kids Night national ambassador Rosie O'Donnell.

"We're talking about enhancing Kids Nights, sharing issues and ideas," Amanda said. "We're creating a sense of community. We're trying to get ideas, not only from the 30 kids in the group, but we're also talking to other actors and kids about what they would like to see on Broadway."

The advisory board is an arm of the Broadway League, a 78-year-old trade association for the stage industry. According to a League press release, research has demonstrated that youths who attend Broadway shows are more likely to return to the theater as adults and share the experience with their own children.

A recent study of audience demographics showed the largest percentage of children and teenagers in the audience in the past 30 years. The advisory board will help develop ways to expand on that trend.

Amanda is the daughter of Kim and Steve Sprecher. She is home-schooled and straddles the line between 11th and 12th grades, she said.

She also is no stranger to the lights of Broadway. Drawn to the stage since age 3, when she saw her older brother Steven perform in a school play, Amanda auditioned for -- and got -- her first role just a year later. She had roles at the Fulton Opera House and Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, both in Lancaster, Pa., got an agent at age 10 and has since appeared with Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy in Inherit the Wind at Broadway's Lyceum Theater. She is now rehearsing long hours for the Yeats Project, which runs April 8 through May 3 off-Broadway at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Amanda will be singing, dancing, acting and playing her violin in the show.

Amanda, who laughs often and speaks with a voice that's well-suited to projecting from a stage, said she heard about the advisory board through a friend and decided to write a 500-word essay, which was the only requirement for selection. Entrants had three choices for their essay topic; Amanda picked "What Broadway Means to Me."

"It's almost like your family," she said, summarizing her essay, which focused on her relationships with the casts and crews she has known. "They look after you, and they have your back. You grow close," Amanda said. "When the show ends and you go your separate ways, you still keep in contact. When you get together, it's like seeing a member of your family."

She said she was thrilled to be picked for the one-year board position but that she has to keep any specific thoughts and ideas to herself for now. Still, Amanda said it's obvious why piquing youngsters' interest in theater is vital -- while they're still young. "If you get interested in a young age, it carries through into adulthood," she said. "For me, getting interested at a young age is what made me want to act."

Also, she said, "I'm really hoping we can get kids interested in the older shows instead of just bringing out only new shows." Classic productions, such as The Sound of Music and West Side Story, can excite a child just as much as the latest Disney show, she said.

"It would be so neat to get kids interested in those original productions," Amanda said, "and very educational, too."

by Tom Knapp
23 March 2009