“Opening Act has given us the platform to speak our opinion and actually be heard – to people who actually care.”

Aanya | Opening Act Alum (Brooklyn) | Attending The University of Rochester

See what Aanya’s mom and high school guidance counselor have to say about her time at Opening Act.

When Aanya started her freshman year of high school, she was a new and shy student, “I was the kind of kid who didn’t talk to people. The first 3 days of school I didn’t talk to a soul.” That changed when she decided to take a chance by joining Opening Act, “I always wanted to be an actor but I never did it, so I was like ok I guess I’ll go.”

“I saw seniors joking around with freshmen and welcoming them into the community. I remember that first day that I was asked to improvise ice skating. All of my classmates who I’d never met before were telling me, ‘Oh it’s fine. Don’t worry, you can’t fail, you can’t do anything wrong.’ In that moment when I was pretending to ice skate in the middle of 65 degree weather in that classroom, I realized life is so full of potential and just because things don’t feel like it’s going to go right – you can always choose to try.”

Aanya is now attending the University of Rochester where she is studying Film and Media Studies and Political Science and Government. Her time at Opening Act greatly impacted her interests in the arts and politics, “No one really wants to know what’s actually happening in the mind of a teenager. Opening Act has given us the platform to speak our opinion and actually be heard – to people who actually care.”

Maza Myrie-Tiyi

Aanya’s mother and Opening Act Board Member

The first time Maza went to see one of Aanya’s Opening Act performances, she started giving her critiques and Aanya interrupted her, “Mom, it’s a no judgement zone. It’s a level playing field, everyone is equal.” The more she began to attend shows, the more she saw what her daughter meant. “That person I thought was a little too shy to have that part the first time – they weren’t. They just hadn’t been given the voice. And that’s what Opening Act does for our kids. It’s a gift.”

Maza, who is now a member of Opening Act’s Board of Directors, credits Opening Act with making a critical impact on her daughter’s life. “Aanya realized something about her own possibilities and what would make her happy through this program – and this community was a big part of making that happen.”

Marianne Finn

Counselor, Clara Barton High School

A long time counselor at Clara Barton, Marianne has seen many students join Opening Act since 2000. “Opening Act has been a life saver for so many of our students, Aanya being the prime candidate. If you were looking for Aanya on Wednesdays, she was engaged in Opening Act. Aanya’s experience gave her the tools needed to enter a world of acting and improvisation and she broadcast the programs and recruited several students.”

Marianne attests that Opening Act helped Aanya develop on an intrinsic level as well, “She also developed many of the so-called soft skills needed to succeed: communication, creativity, tolerance for others, teamwork and pure and simple grit and determination to stay the course. Socially, she grew as she connected with talented students whom she would emulate. Academically, Opening Act gave her more confidence to speak her mind in class, even when her opinion was not a popular one.  She learned to hold her ground!”

Let's Go Back