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BWW Exclusive: Meet the Smallest Stars on Broadway- The Four Babies of THE FERRYMAN!

The Ferryman is a 2017 play by Jez Butterworth set in 1981 during "The Troubles", also known as the Northern Ireland Conflict. It was as violent 30-year sectarian rivalry between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists (Loyalists), who wanted the province to remain a part of the UK, and the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nationalists (Republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland. The Ferryman is an unfolding drama of the family of a former IRA activist, living in their farmhouse in rural County Armagh in Northern Ireland. Presently at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Broadway, the play won four Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Direction of A Play and Best Scenic & Costume Design.

The play boasts an enormous 35-member cast (including understudies), but today we focus on the babies of the company. Babies? Yes! Babies. What makes this production most unique is The Ferryman has the youngest stars on Broadway amongst their cast. Have you ever wondered when you see children in a production how they got the part, who's looking out for them while they are onstage and what concerns might the parents, production crew or other cast members have? Let's find out by chatting with the parents of Broadway's youngest stars!

BWW Exclusive: Meet the Smallest Stars on Broadway- The Four Babies of THE FERRYMAN!
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

ILLIAN CIMINI, CSA and Andrew Femenella, CSA (Infant Casting)

How do you go about planning for a baby to be in a production?

In terms of specifically casting a baby, we worked with general management and stage management to familiarize ourselves with the appropriate labor laws. And then we touched base with Jo Hawes, who cast the babies in London, to see what worked there and figured out what would be most helpful and what our process on Broadway would be.

What were you looking for in a child that would make them a good fit?

We're dealing with 6-month-old babies, so there wasn't an exact science to it. The first step in the process was an interview over Skype or FaceTime. As long as the babies weren't crawling and their parents seemed comfortable being backstage and understood the time commitment and the show schedule, we would invite babies and parents to an in-person audition. We'd bring the babies through the actual light/sound cues in the show, on stage, at the theater, with the actor playing "Shena" (originally Carla Langley and now Julia Nightingale), so that the conditions were as close as possible to what the baby would have in performances. The babies who didn't cry, and seemed happy and comfortable on stage, were the ones who got the job.

Are there special laws in which you need to abide by having a baby on stage?

Per NY state labor laws, babies 6 months or older (which ours were) are allowed to be in the building up to 4 hours per day and on stage up to 2 hours per day, which meant that 2-show days would engage all 4 babies in the cast - we always had two babies called per performance, with stage management making a call close to curtain time which baby would play Bobby at each performance.

Is there anything else you would like to add that would be of interest to our readers?

We hadn't cast babies for a Broadway show before (and aren't aware of babies having been in a Broadway show before), so we didn't know what to expect. Over the last 10 months, we've had the opportunity to FaceTime with hundreds of babies and parents, and gave 13 babies the youngest Broadway debuts we're aware of. It's been really fun to be a part of Broadway history in this very adorable way and we look forward to seeing if any of our Bobbys become performers in the future!


BWW Exclusive: Meet the Smallest Stars on Broadway- The Four Babies of THE FERRYMAN!MEET JACKSON AREVELO

How old is Jackson?

9 months old

How did your child come about being in this production?

I was at the playground with my 2 older children when someone approached me, telling me about this show that was casting babies. We decided to go ahead and email the casting director to inquire about the role. At the time, they were not casting any new babies, so they told us they would put us on a list and reach out later. A week or so later, they reached out, and Jackson still fit the role's needs, so we were able to proceed! It was so surreal taking my 6 month old to a Broadway audition!

What was the first thing that came to mind when your child was selected?

One of the first things we said was "Only in New York!" Only here would we live on the same street as the theater and get approached to audition while at the local playground! It has felt like we are living in some sort of dream world.

Is either parent in the theater business?

Neither of us are, which I think has made this all seem even more surreal, getting to see what all it takes to produce a Broadway play!

Do you have some type of performance education planned for your child?

No, we do not. We feel like these opportunities don't happen often, and it has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we are so grateful!

What is a typical day like for you when your child is due on stage?

Jackson has fallen into a pretty good daily rhythm with shows. We have found that he is easily able to adjust to having two different schedules. For example, when he is not at the theater in the evenings, he will readily go to bed at his usual 7:30pm bedtime with his siblings. But if he is scheduled for an evening show, he knows that being at the theater means he'll take a late nap and then happily stay awake until 9:30.

Our typical routine when we are at the theater is this: We arrive 30 minutes prior to show time, we sign in on the clipboard and head upstairs to the babies' dressing room, known as the Bobby Carney Club. Once in there, the stage manager, Shelly, will come by to say hello and play with the babies, get a feel for how they are doing. After that, I change Jackson into costume and we head down to the green room to say hello to everyone. Jackson has formed some really special bonds with the cast. Everyone loves on him so much. The second he walks into the room, everyone cheers and jumps up to hold him, tickle him, play peek-a-boo, etc. He, and all the other babies, are very loved!

After that, we head back to our dressing room, and the stage manager will let us know which baby will be on stage. Once the show starts, Jackson's first scene is just a few minutes away. Julia, who plays his oldest sister, comes to our dressing room to greet the babies and play with them for a few minutes before heading backstage. There is a certain sound cue that happens in the show that the babies hear and immediately know that it's show time, it's quite amazing!

We head backstage and Julia takes Jackson to the top of the stairs to do their scene together. After that, they have about 45 minutes in between scenes, which is when most babies will nap. Jackson is very particular with this naptime. Without fail, if he is on the matinee show, he will nap on me during this time. But for whatever reason, he won't do that during the evening shows; so instead he takes a late nap before heading to the theater that night. If Jackson is not napping, we hang out in the green room with the understudies, who we love dearly and are now like family to us. Then Act 2 starts with the babies' biggest scene, where they begin the scene on stage in the dark, alone on a changing mat (on the ground). Their sister comes out to meet them shortly after, and finishes the scene out with the baby. From there, there are two more scenes on stage, the final one with their stage mom, played by Emily Bergl. Both Emily and Julia are so wonderful with the babies. They know that each baby is a little different, they make them laugh, get cuddles, and handle hair pulling, spit ups, and poops like it's no big deal! Once Jackson has finished his last scene, we are free to go home!

How many days a week does your baby appear in this production?

Each baby is scheduled for 4 shows a week, and at each show there is always 2 babies. So usually, each baby will appear on stage 2 times per week.

What do you think about this experience?

This experience has been truly incredible. We joined just a couple weeks before the Tony nominations, so it has been a very exciting time to be a part of the show! It was a surreal moment when the press team was snapping pictures of my 8 month-old holding a Tony award! Everyone here is so welcoming and kind. The family that you see on stage exists backstage too. We truly feel so lucky to be a part of The Ferryman family!


BWW Exclusive: Meet the Smallest Stars on Broadway- The Four Babies of THE FERRYMAN!MEET ALEXANDROS KEKOS-PRESSON

How old is Alex?

Alex is 10 months old

How did your child come about being in this production? Were you approached or did you hear about casting?

He was discovered at a friend's party while watching RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars by one of the casting directors.

What was the first thing that came to mind when your child was selected?

Is this really happening? Our baby is going to be on Broadway?

Is either parent in the theater business?

No.

Do you have some type of performance education planned for your child?

He doesn't need it he's got a Tony already! Just kidding. We plan on exposing him to all of the arts (visual and performance) and all the sports (sans football) and letting him decide what he enjoys.

While the baby is on stage where are you located?

We are always located nearby backstage when the baby is on stage.

What is a typical day like for you when your child is due on stage?

We wake up and eat breakfast, get ready for work and daycare. He gets dropped off at daycare while we head off to work. We return home in the Heights around 5:30pm, pick him up, change a diaper and grab some grub and head back downtown to the theater. Once there we get settled in, say hi to the folks in the green room, try and grab a quick bite and/or power nap, get into costume and our favorite part - play with Shelley one of our Stage Managers before places is called.

What do you think about this experience?

This whole experience has been so magical and surreal. We have made amazing friends young and old, human and animal. It's been especially poignant watching our son grow into his little self and more hair and more personality and more words while being surrounded by such amazing people.


BWW Exclusive: Meet the Smallest Stars on Broadway- The Four Babies of THE FERRYMAN!MEET Jack Stewart

How old is Jack?

7.5 months old

How did your child come about being in this production? Were you approached or did you hear about casting?

Jennifer Swiderski (Mom) was encouraged by Jimmy Larkin (a fellow casting director who does not work on The Ferryman) as well as fellow Moms in Broadway Baby Mamas (a support group for Moms in the Broadway community) to have Jack audition.

What was the first thing that came to mind when your child was selected?

"Wait. REALLY?!" Jack was still in the womb when this play opened on Broadway. I got to see the play in January. It never crossed my mind that my newborn son might eventually get to be a small part of telling this incredible story. I was still getting used to the idea that I actually had a son!

Is either parent in the theater business?

Both! Mom (Jennifer Swiderski) is an actor and director having appeared on Broadway in MAMMA MIA! Dad (Eric Stewart) is currently the Head of Props at TOOTSIE.

Do you have some type of performance education planned for your child?

Nah, we're going to let him figure out if he wants to follow that path.

What is a typical day like for you when your child is due on stage?

It varies! We go with the flow of our sporadic schedules. And daily, we facilitate play, full bellies, dry diapers, and a nap (if we're lucky).

What do you think about this experience?

Not knowing what to expect, we've been continually touched with the care and love these babies receive. It truly is a family environment backstage and this company has embraced each baby (and baby parent) as their own. Meanwhile, getting to be up close and personal with the other baby families, we get to share our parenting journeys, which kind of functions like a little support group. We are extremely grateful for this experience. Not only does our baby get to be in the Tony Award-winning Best Play on Broadway, but we get the love and support of a second family that we didn't know we needed. Is it too soon to be planning baby Bobby Carney reunions?


BWW Exclusive: Meet the Smallest Stars on Broadway- The Four Babies of THE FERRYMAN!MEET NOELLE Claire White

How old is Noelle?

Noelle is 7 months old.

How did your child come about being in this production? Were you approached or did you hear about casting?

We saw The Ferryman in mid-February. Peter's parents saw it and loved it, and bought us tickets as a gift. Our tickets were for a show only a few months after Noelle was born, and it was the first time we left her to be watched by Peter's parents. We were nervous about being away from her for the first time, but we were quickly wrapped up in the story, and I especially loved when the baby was on stage. We thought...how cute would it be if that were OUR daughter! Soon after we saw the show, Lauren-Rose saw a casting notice for the babies. She sent them an email with some cute pictures of Noelle, but at that point, she was too young. The casting agents said to be in touch when she was 6 months old, in May. They reached out to Lauren-Rose then and we set up the audition process.

What was the first thing that came to mind when your child was selected?

Lauren-Rose's experience: At the audition, Noelle was so relaxed onstage. She was smiling and happy to be among the fun actors and production crew. I was proud that she was so easy-going through the audition process, and had a kick out of telling my family and friends that she "nailed" her audition. But, I didn't have any expectations, as there were a bunch of other adorable babies there too. When I got the call, I was ecstatic and we thought that her having this experience would be an incredible opportunity - a story she can tell her whole life. Peter's experience: I was pretty much in shock and thought it was an amazing opportunity for Noelle! It really didn't become real until I had the opportunity to see my daughter on stage, which was a surreal experience.

Did you have any fear for safety issues?

The thought crossed our mind. But once we got to know Shelley Miles (the incredible Assistant Stage Manager / official baby-handler) and the rest of the cast and crew, any concerns went immediately away. Upon meeting the crew/cast, we quickly realized how diligent and careful the production is caring for the babies with their safety being their utmost concern. The crew/cast have the baby mechanics down to a science (or as much of a science as babies can be!). They are fun, caring and kind with each baby giving them the opportunity to succeed!

Is either parent in the theater business?

Lauren-Rose works in the arts and is a classical/operatic singer, actor, private vocal teacher and director of children's choral and musical productions. She works a freelancer's schedule, so organizing her schedule to be at the theater with Noelle is no biggie. Peter is an orthopedic surgery resident physician. However, he did study theater during undergrad.

Do you have some type of performance education planned for your child?

We don't have any formal performance education planned. However, we have noticed how happy Noelle has been with this incredibly welcoming and fun cast & crew, so we'll have to see what happens. If theater continues to enhance her life in positive ways, then absolutely!

While the baby is on stage where are you located?

Due to our availability, Lauren-Rose is usually the one to take Noelle to the theater. During the show she usually hangs with Noelle in either the baby dressing room (which is well-equipped with baby items) or the green room. When it's time to go on, Lauren-Rose is usually right off-stage in the wings, watching everything!

What is a typical day like for you when your child is due on stage?

We try to make Noelle's show days as normal as possible. We don't want to tire her out, so we limit her schedule as much as possible (except for her weekly baby music class) when she is due at the theater. Most importantly, we try to arrange for Noelle to get as much sleep as possible, especially with 2 big naps during the day!

What do you think about this experience?

Overall, we have loved this experience and are incredibly grateful for Noelle to have this opportunity. From our perspective, going to the theater with our daughter, she is surrounded by crew members and actors who adore her and are constantly willing to play with her. It's a very unique.


So there you have it - from the mouths of babes... so to speak.

The four-time Tony-winning production of The Ferryman will conclude its Broadway run on July 7. The 35-member cast features Brian d'Arcy James, Holley Fain, Emily Bergl, Fred Applegate, Jackson Arevalo, Glynis Bell, Peter Bradbury, Trevor Harrison Braun, Ava Briglia, Ralph Brown, Will Coombs, Gina Costigan, Charles Dale, Sean Delaney, Jack DiFalco, Ethan Dubin, Fionnula Flanagan, Julian Gamble, Carly Gold, Holly Gould, Shuler Hensley, Terence Keeley, Alexandros Kekos-Presson, Collin Kelly-Sordelet, Michael Quinton McArthur, Willow McCarthy, Ann McDonough, Bella May Mordus, Julia Nightingale, Griffin Osborne, Brooklyn Shuck, Glenn Speers, Jack Stewart, Noelle Claire White, Graham Winton.

The Ferryman is set in rural Northern Ireland in 1981. The Carney farmhouse is a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest. A day of hard work on the land and a traditional night of feasting and celebrations lie ahead. But this year they will be interrupted by a visitor.



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