Two teenage sisters are using their talents to bring the arts to communities who lack access otherwise through their organization, 13 Wishes. Maya Jade Frank (whose Broadway credits include Evita and Mary Poppins) as well as Tehya Rose Frank (a professional dancer and singer/songwriter who has performed with NYCB and at The Bitter End) will bring together other young artists on March 13th for their LA cabaret to provide creative outlets and to spark children’s creativity. I (Lindsay) got to chat with the accomplished young women to talk about their organization’s beginnings and their own beginnings in the arts.
1) How did you two first get started in the arts?
Maya: When I was little, Tehya used to take me out of my crib and make me dance and sing. I auditioned accidentally and got my first professional role in Hurricane: The Musical. I remember being at the first rehearsal and having the biggest smile on my face. That was when I knew the arts was going to have a strong impact on the rest of my life.
Tehya: I started at the School of American Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, both at Lincoln Center when I was 8. I remember my audition for both, they were the fastest auditions I had ever had! SAB made me do a grand battement, and the MET had me sing Happy Birthday. I will never forget how special it is to have the opportunities to be on the stages at Lincoln Center. It constantly reminds me that no matter what stage I’m on, I must treat them all with the same amount of respect and appreciation.
2) Outside of the performing arts and running 13 Wishes, what’s a hobby of yours?
Maya: Eating ice-cream. No, really..I love hanging out with my friends, my dog, riding my bike around the neighborhood, and boxing with Tehya.
Tehya: I love anything to do with learning something new, I do a lot of yoga and boxing. I think it’s so important to challenge yourself to do something out of your comfort zone! I also eat way too much ice-cream.
3) Describe each other in one sentence.
Maya: Tehya is unique, passionate, and blonde (sometimes).
Tehya: Maya is super fun and outgoing, but at her core she is a passionate human being who cares for everything and everyone.
4) For those who are not familiar already, tell us about your organization 13 Wishes
Tehya: 13 Wishes was founded in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. We were trying to figure out a way to help out, living in NYC at the time and seeing the devastation that it caused our community.
Maya: We created 13 Wishes initially to bring the arts to a school in Rockaway Beach where their arts budget had been shifted to pay for repairs caused by the hurricane. We figured that the arts were something we knew well, so it would be the best way to contribute to our community.
Tehya: Art definitely heals, and that’s what we were trying to achieve after these amazing kids had suffered such a devastating experience.
Maya: We have created a group of super kids on the East coast who help with the bracelets and now on the West coast with this cabaret, spreading the message of 13 Wishes and promoting the need for the arts in communities and for kids.
Tehya: We have been lucky to have really talented performing arts kids who are willing to help and want to help be a part of this message.
Maya: It is so easy to reach out and help by doing something we love, and now that Tehya and I have created a platform for so many talented kids’ creativity, we are excited to see where it leads and how much we can help!
5) I know that 13 Wishes was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. What specifically about the aftermath prompted you two to begin thinking about 13 Wishes?
Tehya: Our neighborhood in New York City had a blackout and no running water. We had to leave the apartment and go to our grandmother’s house on Long Island for a few days, but we were lucky. We didn’t have any flooding or damage like what happened to so many others.
Maya: I was in Mary Poppins at the time, and they closed the theatre. I remember going “trick or treating” in a neighborhood I didn’t know, without my friends. This is when we both realized we wanted to do something.
6) For Maya: I know you toured around the country with “Les Miserables”. How has traveling across the country changed your perspective on arts communities throughout the U.S.?
Maya: I realized that not everyone has the same opportunities that I had at such a young age. Different cities and states offer different opportunities. My #1 slogin is: CARPE DIEM everything, for you never know what you miss until it is gone.
7) What are your duties as founders of a foundation such as this?
Tehya: We have so many responsibilities to keep 13 Wishes running in a way that is constantly innovative and creative! Right now we are working on putting together this cabaret in Venice, so we are running rehearsals, advertising campaigns, social media — actually I’m not very good with technology!
Maya: Haha that is my part! I’m in charge of putting together all of the information you see posted on the internet, and reaching out to possible local sponsors. We are really trying to make the cabaret a local community event, and create a space where all the talented kids out here can create a platform together to inspire change in the arts in places where it is limited or non-existent.
Tehya: We have been running around like crazy recently, putting flyers in mailboxes, and finding new ways to spread the word. We want every aspect of the show to be run by ideas from kids and teens so we are finding everything from the Stage Managers to the Tech Director, who are teens! Of course we are in charge of the creative part: musical direction and putting together the band.
Maya: But, we are really letting the show fall into place by using whatever it is the performers want to do, and trying to make as much of it happen as possible!
8) What’s the most enjoyable part of running a do-good business?
Maya: The outcome of all the hard work we put into the process. We work with such talented people, collaborating on different projects, and when they come together and we are able to make a difference in a child’s life, there is something really special about that feeling.
Tehya: I love the process! I actually really love all of the work that needs to be put into creating something to help people. You truly learn so much from mistakes, and there is always more to learn, because we are constantly trying out new, totally out of our comfort zone ideas!
9) 13 Wishes aims to bring artistic opportunities to neighborhoods. These opportunities would (I’m sure) bring role models and teachers to communities to lead and guide these communities. Talk a little bit about how your arts teachers influenced you both as artists and as individuals.
Maya: My arts teachers prepared me for something I had no way of anticipating. But most of all, the teachers that I was comfortable with, were the ones that ended up instilling confidence and never changed who I am and who I was. To this day, knowing who I am, is part of what makes me, well, me!
Tehya: Two of my favorite, most inspiring teachers came from SAB and the MET, Garielle Whittle and Elena Doria. They both pushed me to find what I was most passionate about, and taught me to never stop learning and never stop training. If I wanted to do something, I had to put 110% effort into it, I had to make every step and every note, the best I could do. Every time I do something special in the arts, I think of those two teachers, and every time I can thank them, I will. I think as artists we all have one person that makes a difference in our lives, ignites the spark so to speak, these two were definitely those people for me. They taught me that art was beautiful because it was passionate, and in order to get there I needed discipline and respect for what I was/am pursuing. I guess that was how I got started. That was when the fire was lit.
10) This interview is in honor of your upcoming cabaret in the LA area on March 13th. What can you tell us about the event?
Tehya: I am a singer-songwriter, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunities to play at places such as The Bitter End (NYC) and Sunset (LA), but the best part of being an artist for me is to be able to share my stories. I’m able to collaborate with the most incredible artists, who inspire me to want to be better. This event on March 13th is about bringing together a community of super talented, kind, kids, who love the arts and want to use that passion towards something good.
Maya: We have curated a show with about 20 artists, singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, dancers, who all love what they do and are selflessly sharing their art with the world to hopefully bring recognition to this concept that the arts are so important to a child’s development. Unfortunately, we have seen all too many times, the arts being cut from budgets at schools around the United States. We want to bring back the idea that the arts matter, and are crucial to a child’s development. I grew up surrounded by the arts, I was 7 years old when I did my first show, and since then I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by artists. It’s a huge part of who I am, and I would have never known how much the arts meant to me if I hadn’t been exposed to the arts at a young age. We can’t take that opportunity away from kids. It’s not right, and we need more people to join us in spreading that message.
11) For those who aren’t able to attend the cabaret, what are other ways they can contribute to 13 Wishes?
Maya: We have had many local sponsors on the west coast contribute to creating this cabaret, so donations through the link on 13wishes.net would help this journey a lot.
Tehya: Besides that, we are always looking for creative, innovative ways to spread this message, as well as possible mentors that can give us new ideas and a broader perspective! The cabaret is only one of the projects we have had. We still have bracelets being sold in schools on the East coast by our amazing group of Ambassadors, and are always looking for new ideas! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to bring ideas to our attention! After all, we are all in this together, and we all love what we do. If we can use what we love to help other kids, our message will be spread by kids for kids! We are excited to continue on this journey and see who it leads us to meet, and what it leads us all to accomplish as a professional community.
Maya: Maybe you can be a part of the next cabaret!
Tehya: Or our next project! We are always coming up with random, interesting, artistic ways to spread the message, and in order for it to happen we need kids like you to share your ideas! We create the platform, we all create the ideas!
For more information on the lineup and to order tickets, visit 13Wishes.net.