New Kid on the Block: Spotlight Kids

The idea started with a casual conversation around a classic mom topic: Where are you taking your kids for theater classes? Danielle Burakovsky (an Emmy-nominated costume designer for TV shows — “Gotham,” for one) was hauling her young daughter to midtown on Saturdays and her first answer was “Don’t do it.” So Tamryn Shami (a fashion product developer for Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle among others) countered: Why don’t we start something here?

The two wanted a musical theater program but one with all the bells and whistles: costumes, sets and a real stage for performances. So they started to put the pieces together bit by bit. Spotlight Kids was born in the common space at 100 Barclay with 26 kids in the fall of 2018. The first year went well, but still, it was touch-and-go this past summer when it came time to sign a five-year lease on Miss Rachel’s former basement space at 104 Reade. The numbers had become frighteningly real. So the pair decided to leave it to fate, and kept enrollment open to see how many would sign up. By the time classes started there were 70 kids across ages 5 to 11.

The venture is not yet a slam-dunk: both women are doing everything for free. But so far it’s worth it. “We just love the program and we are trying to make it work,” said Tamryn.

Each class runs for 14 weeks, and kids take the production from soup to nuts: working with acting coaches, music directors and choreographers. Danielle and Tamryn have adapted each show to fit their players, such as adding Katy Perry songs to liven up “Peter Pan.” The performances take place at Soho Playhouse during the theater’s dark days.

There’s ne’er a packaged costume or set — the kids make everything themselves. And that is part of the fun. “There are so many elements that come together for a show, and that means there are that many opportunities for them to build confidence and have fun,” said Danielle.

Up this fall: Annie and Hercules (not together). There are considerations for a costume design class, camps during school vacations and maybe a set or prop class, especially as their cohort gets older. In the meantime, the two seem both excited and grateful that they are moving forward, or as Danielle said, “Right now it feels like the right place to be.”

Spotlight Kids
104 Reade St.