Let Your Star Shine: An Interview with Lundstrum Student Abe Rafowicz
Lundstrum student Abe Rafowicz led a talented cast in the title role of Shrek in our 2018 Summer Musical Theater Intensive. Keep reading to learn more about Abe’s experience!
A summer at Lundstrum Performing Arts is like no other. Each year, we produce two full-length productions for students ages 8-17; recent shows have ranged from “The Boyfriend” to “Peter Pan Jr.” to the 2018 “Shrek the Musical,” directed by Kathleen Bloom. As we prepare for our summer 2019 programming, which will include performances of “Frozen Jr.” and “Legally Blonde (abridged version)”, we thought we’d take a look back with Lundstrum student Abe Rafowicz, who starred as the lovable ogre the summer 2018 production of “Shrek the Musical.” Thanks to Lundstrum supporter and volunteer Katie Gaynor for conducting this interview with Abe.
Before coming to Lundstrum, Abe performed at Stepping Stone Theater and was a student at the St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Shrek was his first starring role, and Abe really enjoyed Shrek’s journey. Abe notes, “ I really love how, unlike most storybook heroes, Shrek is the bad guy at the beginning. He’s been hurt before and that’s why he’s closed off. Then Fiona and Donkey eventually work their way through the armor around his heart, only for him to get hurt again through mis-communication. Finally he realizes that he needs to open up to get the happy ending, and then Happy Ending.”
Throughout the making of our summer musical, students combine daily classes in technique with rehearsals for four weeks. A fun, exhilarating and rewarding time, the summer intensive program gives students a full overview of the theater-making process, complete with props, costumes, sets and stage design. As Shrek, Abe took the lead both onstage and offstage with fellow cast members, noting “You’re one of the de facto leaders of the cast. I loved doing it. It was heartwarming to see those kids grow up over the show and help them figure out their problems and how to work around them and how to work together.”
Putting on a full-production is a big commitment, but through it all, lasting friendships are made. Abe remembered, “You become friends with everyone in the cast. There are some people that you don’t get to know as well, but you still establish a friendship with them.” And while “Shrek the Musical” was Abe’s first production at Lundstrum, he felt right at home. “It just felt welcoming partly because there were a lot of kids. You could see that there wasn’t anyone left out. There was just a feeling in the room that everyone was accepted.”
“Lundstrum allows kids to have a place to go, to act, to sing and to grow. ”
In some ways, Shrek’s progression as a character mirrored Abe’s own personal journey. Having experienced anxiety throughout his life, Abe said, “The hardest part was figuring out precisely when he [Shrek] was vulnerable and when he decided not to be vulnerable. Inadvertently he opened up, even though he was trying as hard as he could to keep closed. On a personal level, the instructors helped me work through my anxiety and helped me a lot with my vocal technique.”
At Lundstrum we know the value of triple-threat training, especially when it comes to a well-rounded education in the arts. Abe recalls, “Lundstrum allows kids to have a place to go, to act, to sing and to grow. It’s hard to go from here to other places because of the caliber. This is one of most professional if not the most professional show that I have ever been in. It makes a lot of difference for kids—it can change their lives.”
The summer extensive focuses on performing arts technique and also on developing self-confidence, discipline and collaboration. “The Lundstrum staff were a supportive net in the background ready to catch you if you needed it,” Abe remembered, “but at the same time, willing to let you stay in control of what you needed to do unless you needed help.“
Abe’s love for the arts is unmistakable. He notes, “The arts are pretty much everything for me. The arts are how I express myself. I act all the time, I sing, I used to dance more than I do now, but when I’m in a show, I throw everything into it because that’s what it is. With art, you can do what you want to and have fun. I wouldn’t have half as many friends as I have if I didn’t have the arts. I wouldn’t have as many connections, I would not be half as happy.”
And what can the arts teach us? Whether you’re a rising star in the performing arts or a passionate audience member, the arts hold a special place in our community. Abe agreed, “This is what you can learn in the arts: confidence, friendship, leadership, the ability to do what you want without caring about others judging you, a boldness, courage, mentorship, and learning how to teach and also being a member of a group that cares about you.”
“No matter what, you are important.”
Long term, what difference did participating in a show and Lundstrum make in Abe’s life? “It’s given me a lot more confidence knowing that I helped a bunch of kids,” says Abe, “I know that I helped carry some of the show. One of the things I tried to make certain the younger kids knew, is that, ‘No matter what, you are important. It will not work without you.’”
In the future, Abe wants to continue acting, and hopes to make a positive difference in his community. “I want to do something that helps people. One of the possibilities for me would be to become a doctor. Take the extra money that I make, and donate it. It’s twofold because I am helping people with my job, and with the proceeds of my job, I am helping people.”
Thanks, Abe! We hope to see you back at Lundstrum soon!