Theater company with Oil City graduate featured in New York Times article

Performers from the Trusty Sidekick Theater Company in New York rehearse the play "Up and Away", which opens today at the Clark Studio Theater at Lincoln Center. (Photo by Alexis Buatti-Ramos, photographer for Trusty Sidekick Theater Company)

An Oil City High School graduate is riding high after a theater company she works for in New York City was featured in a recent New York Times article.

"We are pretty on top of the world right now," Jamie Agnello, a performer and collaborator for the Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, said.

The article highlights the upcoming show titled "Up and Away" that is specifically for young people on the autism spectrum. The production was also commissioned by Lincoln Center Education, making it the first show created for kids on the spectrum ordered by a major cultural institution.

"For each show, we work directly with the kids to develop the content," said Agnello, who is the daughter of Jason and Brenda Agnello of Oil City. "It's been incredibly rewarding to have kids we have worked with come to see the show."

Only eight children are in attendance at a time with their parents or guardians, which creates the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with the audience.

"It's more personal than I would have ever expected," Agnello said. "It's a whole different performance experience."

The New York Times featured another show done by the company last year, but the second time around was just as exciting for Agnello.

"When they approached us about this one we just asked, 'Is this real life?'"

Agnello was first introduced to Trusty Sidekick by a friend when she was attending Sarah Lawrence College, just north of Manhattan, to earn her master's degree in fine arts.

Her friend worked for the company and asked for Agnello's assistance in creating a show about the subway system for children ages two to five. Since then, she has contributed as a performer and collaborator for three years.

Although she has come a long way since graduating from Oil City High School in 2003 and performing at the Barrow-Civic Theatre in Franklin, Agnello credits her roots for helping to build her confidence as a young theater enthusiast.

"I felt like the arts community in Oil City and Franklin was so welcoming," she said. "People gave me chances to perform, even though I was not ready, and it has shaped how I perform now."

"Up and Away" has already sold out the first month and received a week-long extension. The show opens today at the Clark Studio Theater at Lincoln Center, and Agnello has aspirations of taking the production on the road in years to come.

"Maybe in the future we can take it elsewhere," she said. "I wish we could bring the show to Oil City."

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