Local Kids Star in Award-Winning Movie

By Catherine Ryan and Robert Viagas

(January 15, 2009) The kids of Mamaroneck Avenue School are featured in "School Play," a new documentary film from one of the co-creators of the "Dora the Explorer" TV series, MAS dad (and professional filmmaker) Rick Velleu.

Mamaroneck Premiere:
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009
Clearview Mamaroneck Playhouse
243 Mamaroneck Avenue

Screening: 3:30 & 7:00pm

Ticket prices: $10 pre-sale, $12 show day

After party: Cafe Mozart after 7:00 show. Free glass of wine with your ticket stub. 25% of dinner proceeds go to MAS Theater

Tickets may be purchased at:
Café Mozart- 308 Mamk Ave
Main Hosiery & Lingerie- 263 Mamk Ave.
The Quilt Cottage- 414 Mamk Ave.
Mamaroneck Avenue School
Mamaroneck Playhouse (show day only)


To Donate Send Checks to:
M.A.S.T. – "SCHOOL PLAY Screening"
Mamaroneck Avenue School
850 Mamaroneck Avenue
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Checks should be made out to MASPTA (with a notation that the donation is for M.A.S.T.)

The film, which follows the Mamaroneck elementary school's 2005 production of "The Wizard of Oz," has traveled to film festivals across North American, winning the Best Documentary Award at the Big Apple Film Festival in November. (For more on the genesis of the project, see: The Wizard of Oz Comes to MAS And TV Come to Mamaroneck Avenue School: Stay Tuned.)

"School Play" will make its hometown debut January 22 at the Clearview Mamaroneck Playhouse Cinema at 243 Mamaroneck Avenue. Children featured in the film are expected to appear in person at the 3:30 and 7 pm screenings and at the reception to follow at Café Mozart, about a block from the Playhouse.

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Proceeds from the screenings and reception will benefit the Mamaroneck Avenue School theater program. The funds will go towards scholarships for kids who want to be in the school play and pay for sets, costumes and other production expenses. The next production is Oklahoma which “premieres” in late April.

Why A Film About a Kid's Play?

The film treats audiences to a unique view of life, as seen through the eyes of children who are no longer "little kids," but aren't quite teenagers yet, explained Rick Velleu.

“I was inspired to make the film after years of helping play director Laurie Gage by building sets for the annual MAS musicals,” said Mr. Velleu. "I was amazed at the level of commitment and work going into these productions, he added. "There were big, dramatic journeys happening: these kids were really putting themselves out there right at the exact moment that they were going through complex, emotional changes in their lives. I realized that the story of the play was a good chance to capture a little bit of art that was happening right in my own backyard."

Wizard of Oz

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So Mr. Velleu convinced his business partner, Eddie Rosenstein, to join him in Mamaroneck for three, intense months of filming (they shot more than 200 hours of video to make the 70-minute production). The two selected five children who they thought had interesting stories, and followed them around in all aspects of their lives. The five featured students are Joey Angilletta, Isabel Azevedo, Elizabeth Gale, Jeffrey Slater and Nick Viagas.

"We were there for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, bedtime stories-- we even went to the dentist with a couple of kids," said Mr. Velleu. "We spent enough time with the kids and their families to earn their trust, allowing them to feel comfortable to open up to us and the cameras."

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The film captures many scenes of typical life in Mamaroneck Village in the autumn, including the high school football team, Sal's Pizza, and kids playing at Harbor Island. Though the focus is the five child actors, dozens of Mamaroneck kids (and adults) speak, perform and are seen in the movie.

More photos and the trailer from "School Play" can be found at its official website, SchoolPlaytheMovie.com.

“And of course the cameras were there for all the ups and downs of the play. The result is a film that ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to sweet and nostalgic-- a look back at childhood that can bring a tear to your eye,” concluded Mr. Velleu.


Catherine Ryan and Robert Viagas have children who participated in the Mamaroneck Avenue School productions.