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They do so like fundraising

Nassau Herald - 8/18/2017

Two former Lawrence Woodmere Academy Summer Day campers returned on Aug. 10 as they co-directed a performance of "Seusssical." The musical is based on several of Dr. Seuss's stories, with the goal to raise money for NEXT for Autism, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with autism and their families. More than $5,500 was raised.

This is the fourth annual performance that 15-year-old Andrew Feldman has put on at LWA in its Hessel Hall. He and his friend, Steven Wagner, also 15, co-directed this performance with a cast of 15 other teenagers and a crew of six.

Last year they performed a Star Wars parody that raised over $4,000. This year they were able to eclipse that amount thanks to a nearly sold out crowd of about 400 people.

"Steven and I took a look at the show," Feldman said, "and we discovered there's a lot of social commentary and metaphors that are often overlooked. We wanted to put on a production that would really highlight that social commentary and those metaphors."

Feldman and Wagner also played two of the biggest roles. Feldman was Jojo, the son of the mayor of Whoville, the town Dr. Seuss fans remember from "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," and Wagner played the cat in the hat, the titular character from perhaps Seuss's most popular story.

Feldman began fundraising for NEXT for Autism when he was 12, as a mitzvah project. Both Feldman and Wagner have family members who are affected by autism. "Like Andrew, I have a cousin who has pretty severe autism, so it's something near and dear to our hearts," Wagner said. "That's why we chose to keep working with this charity group, because it's impacted our lives as well."

Debra Orlep, Feldman's middle school drama teacher at LWA was available for guidance, but according to her they didn't need much help. "They're an amazing group of kids, they really put this together themselves," she said. "Andrew and Steven spearhead this whole thing. They put in tremendous hours of work and dedication."

Although the adolescent duo did a ton of work, Feldman repeatedly praised the efforts of their entire cast. "It's such an awesome thing that we have such talented and committed people involved," he said.

Both boys hope that their audience leaves having learned a lesson. "You come to see how someone who you've never even talked to, they've got their own story," Wagner said. "They've got a whole life and their own morals and their own beliefs and you don't know them, and everyone is their own person even if you can't see it, everyone has their own story."

They hoped to strike the same type of balance between whimsical and profound that Seuss himself often did. "We kind of wanted to drive home the message that anything is possible," Feldman said. "You can do whatever you want to do with your life and you can be whoever you want to be and everybody matters everybody has a purpose."


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