Sirus Desnoes has had a hectic summer, though watching him move calmly, soaring through his many theater performances, one had no clue how much he had going on.
Sharing the spotlight with Mary Poppins (Tatianna Copp), he sang and danced through two performances a day on Aug. 1, 2 and 3 at the Hangar Theatre. Later on each day, Sirus raced from the Hangar to the Kitchen Theater to perform in the world premiere performance of “Katrina,” a musical by Ithacans Liz Bauman (book and lyrics) and David Frumkin (music and lyrics) with Priscilla Hummel (director and choreographer of both shows!).
“Katrina” ran with sell-out shows on Aug. 1, 2, 3, 8 9, 10 and 11, yet through the finale, Sirus, one of the youngest actors, juggled many ensemble roles, scenes, songs and costume changes.
The Davina and Garth Desnoes family arrived in Tompkins County in 2011 when Sirus was eight. After his role in his Lansing Elementary School “Nutcracker” production, Sirus realized he enjoyed performing. Since then he has appeared in “Mama Mia” (Lansing High School), “The Wiz” (Running 2 Places), “A Christmas Carol” (Hangar Theatre Company) and many other productions.
Sirus in “Mary Poppins” was lively and engaging and appeared calm, confident and focused throughout two shows a day. He brought that same presence to his many roles in the ensemble of “Katrina.”
In the compact and inviting Kitchen Theater space, a remarkable cast was able to bring to life the human toll of Hurricane Katrina. This original musical was performed with a live orchestra, with many of the talented musicians slipping out behind the curtain and emerging on stage in various roles.
The outstanding cast sang, danced and role-played as parents, children, newscasters, struggling workers, police officers and bartenders within the compelling and cohesive story, requiring split-second costume changes for the few actors who each played many roles.
Ithacans Ms. Bauman and Mr. Frumkin et al. creatively conveyed the effect of this huge natural disaster that befell the most defenseless population, while national and local politicians failed to intervene.
Many people died as a result of scant disaster planning, while thousands of evacuees and survivors lived for days in the unsanitary Superdome or lived inside and outside of a convention center without food, accommodations or medical care.
The relief provided was so inadequate that many of the poorest, frailest survivors never recovered; many left New Orleans forever.
What does a talented young actor heading into his junior year in high school do when he is not performing in one or two shows at a time? One of four children, Sirus relates that he loves theater but also track and field (indoors and outdoors), astronomy and physics, as well.
Darius, Sirus’ older brother and role model, played basketball and soccer, so Sirus, tall and athletic, gave them a try.
“I really like soccer, but my younger sister is definitely the basketball star,” Sirus said.
Gabrielle, going into eighth grade, is already researching colleges that excel at women’s basketball. Darius enjoys tennis, as well as ultimate frisbee, but makes time to watch his siblings’ matches and performances when he is home from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.
Sirus began track in seventh grade and has high and long jumped ever since.
“I’ve had amazing coaches,” he said. “All the runners love the coaches. They are so encouraging, relaxed, flexible. But even by seventh grade, I knew my acting came first. The coaches and my teammates have accepted that sometimes I miss a few track meets.”
Sirus said that sometimes, it is difficult to manage the schedule and demands of schoolwork, performances and track and field.
“But my parents have always been there as a safety net in case I fall,” he said. “They take care of me but also give me enough freedom, with lots of support. They have the right balance.”
Sirus also tries to create balance in his own life, he said.
“When I am done with school, practices, performances and responsibilities I like being off on my own,” he said. “Sometimes, I feel ‘socially tired’ and just retire back into myself. I love to learn about astronomy and physics, and relax playing video games.”
Somehow, Sirus’ working parents manage to raise terrific kids and spend time with them while taking them to their practices, rehearsals and then attend the sports events and performances. Sirus’ mother attends as many performances as she can, despite her role as budget director at Cornell. She likes watching how the cast progresses from the first to the last show.
The first week in August meant two morning plays at the Hangar Theatre and an evening performance at the Kitchen Theater. That added up to late nights and early mornings. Fortunately, Sirus father, Garth Desnoes, a fire protection specialist at Cornell, works an early schedule, so one parent or brother Darius could be counted on for lots of chauffeuring.
Watching the young co-stars and fans flock around Sirus for autographs after the Hangar show and watching him hold his own as one of the youngest performers in “Katrina,” Sirus already has the bearing of an adult. No matter what Sirus decides to pursue in the future, his young fans will be glad they hung on to those autographs from the days when he was just getting launched.
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