NXT Generation Theatrics, run entirely by teens, persists through COVID pandemic

NEW YORK CITY -- The coronavirus pandemic may have shut down Broadway until September, but the next generation of performers was determined to continue online while raising money for worthy causes in the process.

That's all the more impressive when you consider Lana Schwartz, who started the group called NXT Generation Theatrics, is still in high school.

Schwartz and her friends are trying to find their place in show business while helping others, staging a benefit show virtually this month called NGT Rocks, with 30% of the proceeds going to the Actors Fund and Stop AAPI Hate.

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Her band of performers aren't content to wait for opportunity to come knocking, Instead, they're determined to make their own luck and give each other a break in the competitive world of show business.

"I wanted to create a community of people, the next generation of the industry, and come together and show what we're capable of," she said.

She's been auditioning for shows as a performer since the age of 8 and has appeared Off-Broadway, but she is also good at organizing and found a way to use that skill by creating her non-profit group.

"I wanted to create a place where teens could gain that experience and gain that exposure to the arts by just jumping in and managing every aspect of putting on a theatrical production," she said.

That's how NXT Generation Theatrics was born, says one of her colleagues, Anya Jimenez.

"You have writers, you have directors, you have casting directors, all these different roles that are not in competition with each other," Jimenez said. "So everybody grows together."

The pair both attend Professional Performing Arts High School in New York City, and Jimenez says NGT complements that curriculum very well.

"Being given opportunities that I wouldn't normally have because of my age, artistically, in NXT Generation Theatrics, I mean that's really, really helpful in figuring out what I want to do with my life," she said.

Just as the group was getting started and had gained some momentum, the pandemic hit.

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Jimenez found she was, "missing the community, and the collaboration that comes from being in the same room of like minded, inspiring artists."

As the leader, Schwartz took a step back and figured out a way to go virtual, but staying organized had its challenges.

"Just getting inspired, and you have to figure out a way to get motivated and keep the drive going," she said. "And I hope that I did that."

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