South Orangetown Central School District

The cast of South Orangetown Middle School’s spring musical had a special visit last night from Aveena Sawyer (TZHS ‘14), who plays Crystal in “Little Shop of Horrors” at Manhattan’s Westside Theatre.

“This is a cast member in the Off-Broadway show who got her start right here on that stage,” announced Danelle Greene, who is Director and Choral Director for the SOMS production.

Sawyer was greeted with cheers and applause. “I was really excited to hear that my middle school was doing ‘Little Shop’ and wanted to come see what you all were up to,” she said. “I was just like you, involved with shows at school. I remember going to see ‘In the Heights’ as a junior in high school and thinking ‘I can do that. This is it.’”

After graduating from Tappan Zee High School, Sawyer studied acting and musical theater at Kent State University. “In college, I got to play a lot of roles that challenged me,” she recalled. “Whenever I played a challenging role and was successful, it was really gratifying and reinforced that yes, I could do this.”

Sawyer went on tour after college and eventually landed back in New York. In addition to her role as Crystal, Sawyer is an understudy for the voice of the giant, human-eating plant in the Off-Broadway production. She observed the Monday night SOMS rehearsal and fielded questions ranging from getting noticed by casting agents to handling rejection.

“For middle school students who have this dream, Aveena is proof that it is achievable: someone who attended this school did it,” said Jamie Fodor, who is Assistant Director, Backstage Director and Business Director for the SOMS production. “Sharing how she has made her dream a reality gives students a path to follow.”

As far as advice, Sawyer encouraged students to focus on character. “Lead with kindness always; you never know who you’re going to meet again in this life. Be bold in your choices and have fun.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” takes the SOMS stage on March 18-20. Showtimes are 7:30PM on March 18 and 19, 2:00PM on March 20. Ticket information will be available in the weeks ahead.

Alumna Aveena Sawyer with SOMS cast of "Little Shop of Horrors"