ASU Gammage cultivates young talent at Kaleidoscope event with touring cast of 'Aladdin'


Ellie Borst

Compelling. Inspiring. Extravagant. Just a few words to describe the talent that was showcased at Kaleidoscope at ASU Gammage on Saturday.

Kaleidoscope is an opportunity for students from Title I schools to take part in an immersive live arts experience and interactively connect with a show. This year, students viewed the matinée performance of Disney’s touring Broadway show "Aladdin" at ASU Gammage and stayed afterward for dinner with the cast.

Kaleidoscope is funded by the Molly Blank Fund, an organization dedicated to promoting arts and culture events for youth.

“It’s definitely a special program that reflects ASU Gammage’s commitment to connecting communities with the younger generation,” said Desiree Ong, ASU Gammage educational enrichment program manager.

Ten cast members answered questions and watched the students perform, including Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin), Ellis Dawson (Genie), Zach Bencal (Babkak) and Jed Feder (Kassim).

“It inspires me and gives me hope,” Ong said about the meaningful experience that theater can provide.

A hundred students and teachers from Cesar Chavez High School, Sierra Linda High School and South Mountain High School prepared various pieces to present to the cast members.

The Cesar Chavez group performed a set of skits outlining one of the central themes from "Aladdin" — courage. The skits had the entire room erupting in laughter.  

The Sierra Linda students presented four different dioramas of their own ideas on how the "Aladdin" set would look if they could create it themselves. With glitter and paper, the students transformed cardboard boxes into set designs close to those of Disney’s. Another student from Sierra Linda performed “Proud of Your Boy." Her powerful voice left the entire room awestruck and brought some teachers and students to tears.  

South Mountain's group entertained the audience with a Spanish/English rendition of “Friend Like Me,” which the school is performing for its musical at the end of February. The outstanding performance by South Mountain’s Genie brought every cast member to his or her feet.  

Cast members offered words of wisdom and shared their personal paths to stardom for the students and aspiring actors in attendance.

“If something scares you, do it,” said Adrienne Howard, a member of the ensemble in "Aladdin."

The actors left the room on a note of appraisal, commending the young student-actors for their own performances and encouraging them to stick to their unique passions.