For some performers appearing live on a Broadway stage can be a nerve wracking experience. But singer/actress Idina Menzel, who recently starred in If/Then, is used to that venue. She says the nerves come out for her when she’s speaking before groups of girls ages 10 to 14: “Sometimes I get up in front of them and speak out about self-esteem and confidence and taking risks, and my heart is pounding. I feel more responsibility and more nerves talking to them than I do getting up onstage to sing.”
Most of the girls she’s addressing probably best know her as the voice of Elsa, who sings Let It Go in the hit Disney animated film Frozen or as the vocal coach, Shelby Corcoran, on the TV series Glee. But she is being honored by USA Today’s Make a Difference Day for the work she does recruiting campers from underserved urban communities for a special two week summer program that combines performing arts with athletics. It’s part of the work being done by her A BroaderWay Foundation that she began with her ex-husband Taye Diggs.
Menzel knows from her own experience the difference camp can make in a child’s life: She describes it as “a sanctuary for me–a salvation.” And that’s why she reaches out to schools to find girls who would most benefit from a program which she says doesn’t require them be good dancers or singers, but allows them to be their best selves: “What we found is that they do a lot of amazing writing. We journal with them, and the poetry and storytelling that comes out is incredible.”
She speaks with pride about the half hour show the girls perform based on the material they’ve written during their stay: “It was important to me that since we’re using the arts to help these girls find their creative selves, we don’t just put on Guys and Dolls. They’re really surprised by what they’re capable of, and moved by it.”
A Good for You to Idina Menzel and all of her campers!