Fifth grader comes up with novel way to raise money for community theater

Brittany Silverman, with Milford Performing Arts Center director Carol Devendorf. The telethon airs Sunday.
Brittany Silverman, with Milford Performing Arts Center director Carol Devendorf. The telethon airs Sunday. Courtesy photo

Many 11-year-olds, when faced with the need to raise some cash for a beloved organization, might set up a lemonade stand or organize a bake sale.

But Brittany Silverman of Milford is, by all accounts, a born performer, and she responded Judy Garland-style.

Only it wasn’t just “Let’s put on a show!” To her, it was “Let’s do a telethon!”

The idea originated on a sweltering summer day as Silverman and her fellow actors were rehearsing for a Milford Performing Arts Center performance, one of many that the fifth-grader has taken part in over the past several years.

“Why don’t we have air conditioning here?” she finally asked her father, Craig.


“Because MPAC can’t afford it,” he said.

Brittany thought immediately of the telethons she occasionally watched on TV for muscular dystrophy or other causes, and suggested the group follow suit.

“I told her, not just anyone can do a telethon,” recalled Craig Silverman, an attorney by profession. “She was persistent and said, ‘Why can’t they? Let’s try to find out.’ ”

Together, father and daughter began their homework. Working to help MPAC felt natural to them; Craig, who hadn’t been in a play since he was a child, returned to the stage as a middle-aged dad because he believed it would be a good father-daughter activity. Brittany’s mother, Kristen Silverman, helps MPAC with publicity and other behind-the-scenes tasks.

Craig and Brittany eventually concluded that they could hold a telethon as long as it was benefiting a nonprofit organization, and they put the wheels in motion. MPAC’s first-ever fund-raising telethon will take place Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m., and will include a combination of live performances and prerecorded numbers.

Although the discussion about air conditioning was the original impetus, Brittany understood that there are lots of ways that MPAC could put additional funds to use. And she wanted to be sure that her cohorts had their say.


“I wanted the kids to have the chance to give their opinion,” she said. So she attended every summer rehearsal and theater camp session with a pink notebook in hand, asking her peers questions and writing down their answers.

“I had three questions,” Brittany said. “I asked each kid, ‘Why is MPAC important to you?’ ‘What does MPAC mean to you?’ and ‘What would make MPAC even better?’ ”

She quickly learned that most of her fellow actors participated in MPAC for the same reason she did: the opportunity to appear on stage and to bond socially with one another.

“But kids had lots of different ideas about what would make it better,” she recalled. “A lot of them mentioned more costumes and a better sound system.”

Adults involved in MPAC, according to Craig Silverman, would like to increase the size of the scholarships they provide for high school students and for their own theater programs, and they also want to keep ticket prices down so more members of the community will attend performances.

Milford TV, the town’s local cable-access television organization, will be providing six hours of air time for the telethon. Then it became Brittany’s responsibility to figure out how to fill 360 minutes with programming. Sunday’s lineup will include everything from clips of past MPAC productions to live performances by improv acts, children’s theater workshops, and a cappella groups all based at the Main Street arts center, as well as a handful of local musicians not affiliated with MPAC.


The Silvermans hope that the telethon raises significant funding, but regardless of the final figure, Brittany’s parents note that it has been a learning experience for their daughter.

“She’s learned a lot about organization and taking the bull by the horns,” Craig Silverman said. “I really have to give her credit for the way she’s taken this on. But I also give MPAC credit, for giving her those same skills that she is now using to give something back to them.

“MPAC teaches kids confidence within an inclusive and accepting environment,” Craig said. “And it’s given my daughter and me a wonderful chance to work together and strengthen our relationship. This is something we will always share.”

The organization’s inaugural telethon can been seen Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. on Milford TV Educational, which is Channel 11 on Comcast and Channel 40 on the Verizon system. To make contributions or for more information, call 508-473-1684 or go to www.mpactelethon.org.

OPERA IN THE CITY: MetroWest Opera makes its Newton debut this week with Engelbert Humperdinck’s 19th-century masterpiece, “Hansel & Gretel.”

The regional ensemble, previously based in Weston, is mounting a full-scale stage production with orchestra at the First Baptist Church in Newton, 848 Beacon St. in Newton Centre. Performances will be held Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., along with a matinee Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets start at $30, or $25 for students and seniors.


For tickets or more information, go to www.metrowestopera.org.

FINDING THE HUMOR: Wellesley College Theatre presents “Motherhood Out Loud,” a collaboration by more than a dozen playwrights all focusing on the truths and traditions of motherhood in comedic style.

Performances take place Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre at Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley.

Tickets are $10, $5 seniors and students, and free for Wellesley, Olin, Babson, or MIT students with college ID. Reserve tickets by calling 781-283-2000.

INSPIRED BY BIRDS: “Call and Response,” a multimedia exhibition featuring visual artists Jane McKinnon Johnstone and Michele Vitti, and poet Susan Edwards Richmond, is on display at the ArtSpace Gallery, 63 Summer St. in Maynard, through April 25.

The show reflects the way the three artists observe nature, specifically in the form of birds, through collages, prints, drawings, and poems. An opening reception and poetry reading will be held Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.artspacemaynard.com.

PIANO TIMES THREE: The piano trio Triple Helix will perform on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Needham, 859 Great Plain Ave.

Sponsored by the Needham Concert Society, the program features Franz Schubert’s Adagio in E- flat major, or “Notturno,” and his Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat major, and Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio in A major.

Tickets are $20, or $15 for seniors; students are admitted free. For more information, call 781-449-2138.


POETRY IN PERSON: D.A. Powell, whose latest book, “Useless Landscape: A Guide for Boys,” was awarded the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, will read from his work Monday at 7 p.m. in the McCarthy College Center at Framingham State University, 100 State St.

A question-and-answer session will follow the reading, and books will be on sale at the event, which is hosted by the university’s English department and the Framingham State University Student Pride Alliance.

Send ideas to nancyswest@ gmail.com.