by Ciaran Farley
Ayah Ahmed is a senior here at Staten Island Tech who was heavily involved in SING! the past four years. During her first two years she was in ensemble. Last year she directed “Straight Outta the Sky,” which featured travelers stranded on an island from a plane crash. This year she was back in ensemble helping save the day in “Zeroes to Heroes.” I checked in with on her experiences over these past four years.
Ciaran Farley: How did you feel when you were selected to be a director last year?
Ayah Ahmed: I think ecstatic and excited are the best words I can use to describe the feeling. I was actually interviewed for the position on a Friday, so I tried my hardest to not stress about it over the weekend, so that Monday I wasn’t really thinking about it when someone came up to me and congratulated me. At first I was like “For what?”, and then I realized I had gotten the position, and I was so excited that I decided to go see the paper Ms. Brown posted even though it meant being late to class. My director sophomore year even clapped for me when I was on my way there, and I texted my family the picture I took of the paper because I was so happy.
CF: What was your biggest challenge as a director?
AA: The biggest challenge was definitely having to always be the bigger person in every situation. It’s inevitable that every year, some people will get upset for various reasons, and they can start being rude. But whenever drama was about to start, or I really wanted to tell someone off, I knew I couldn’t, even if it was unfair to me, because ultimately, I had the responsibility.
CF: What was your favorite part of being a director?
AA: My favorite part of being a director was watching when something finally went right for the first time. I spent hours urging everyone to focus on facials, straighten their arms, pay attention to cues, etc, and I knew it was a lot to keep track of. It took a lot of time and effort to perfect scenes and dances. The dances are hard, and not everyone will learn them easily or put as much effort in, but the whole cast nailing a dance or scene makes the entire process worth it. It’s watching all your effort pay off that makes the stress and yelling worth it.
CF: What was it like to transition from a leader of your peers back into being a member of ensemble?
AA: I knew that I definitely didn’t want to bother this year’s directors. As a JSV director, I dealt with “fourth directors”, and I knew I wouldn’t want to be someone who acted like they were still in charge when I didn’t hold a leadership position. So it was basically just a matter of accepting that I wasn’t making the decisions or running the show anymore, and that actually took a lot of stress off of me, so I was able to enjoy being in my final SING at Tech without worrying about the results as much as I would’ve if I was directing.
CF: How did you feel about your grade’s show this year?
AA: I loved it! That might be biased because I was in it, but I truly thought it was amazing. I was nervous at first because this year we had the largest cast in all of SING history. But the directors did an amazing job managing everyone, and bless the choreographers for teaching 86 kids five dances. I think my grade is underrated, because we definitely have good singers and great actors. Most of all, I think we have the strongest ensemble. People always underrate the role of the ensemble, but I truly believe they’re the most important part of the show, and directing last year proved that to me.
CF: Out of all four years, what’s your favorite memory from SING?
AA: The funniest memory I have is probably from freshman year during a rehearsal at one of my director’s houses. Chloe (a senior director this year) was sitting next to me and making me laugh by singing to me in a weird voice, and Lily Zhang looked over and said “Wow Chloe, what language is that?” That memory stands out because it must’ve been the hardest I’ve ever laughed during a SING rehearsal. But my most sentimental memory would have to be sitting in the front row of the audience on opening night last year. I was squeezing Aria and Tristana’s hands and I sort of saw my show from a whole new perspective, as if I was seeing it from a random audience member’s point of view rather than a director’s. I remember being blown away by the talent of the cast, band, and crew, and just being brought to tears because of how insanely proud I was of everyone. I felt like just watching the first scene made all those months of stress and hard work totally worth it.
CF: When did you first get involved in acting?
AA: I’ve been into acting ever since I can remember, but I only really started getting involved in acting during high school through SING. During middle school I focused more on art than on drama, so participating in SING made me realize I truly loved acting and wanted to spend more of my time doing it. From there, I decided to seriously pursue acting.
CF: What’s in store? Do you plan to major in theater in college? If not, how will you stay involved in acting?
AA: I’ve decided I’m going to double major either Biology or Psychology, and Theatre in college, on a pre-med track so that I fulfill the core classes needed for medical school. I’ve been taking acting classes and I’m now going to start going to audiences for small roles, like student films and commercials, to build up my experience until I hopefully get an agent. Depending on how well this year goes, I might decide to stay in New York for college so that I have more opportunities in this field, but I’m optimistic and determined. I remind myself that dreams don’t work unless you do.