| by Morey Storck |
Alex Arlotta is a talented and academically honored student at Irvington High School who will be a sophomore this fall. For the past five years he has appeared in many musical theater area productions, in both lead and ensemble roles. He is a self-taught piano player and for the past five years has taken singing lessons. Arlotta is also in a group with a start-up band. But what makes his story all the more remarkable is that he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of five.
ADHD is a condition that affects a person’s attention span and everyday actions, such as difficulty in focusing and an overly active behavioral pattern. Among the most common treatments are medications, behavior modification activities, and counseling. Of course, support and understanding from parents, teachers, friends and peers also goes a very long way. What Arlotta has overcome and given back to his community, is astonishing. As his father, Chris, pointed out, “His is an amazing story of a kid that was destined for mediocrity, as foretold by all the evaluators, but instead has proven them all wrong.”
When Arlotta was two or three years old, he had a fascination with music and performing. He would walk around with a ukulele, and later a guitar, everywhere he went, according to his beaming dad. One day Chris brought home a James Taylor DVD. Young Alex, while watching it, tried to emulate Taylor by mimicking Taylor’s guitar playing, and although Arlotta is right-handed, he now plays the guitar as a lefty because of the mirror image he followed as a kid. He is also a self-taught piano player, picking out the notes by ear in the beginning, and then later, adapting guitar chords (triads) to the piano. He has now been playing for four or five years, having learned to recognize chords on sheet music and even composing his own songs.
Arlotta recently formed his own band, The Griffins. Additionally, he has been taking singing lessons for several years and has become an outstanding soloist. He was invited to audition for the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) this year as a freshman and earned a perfect score as a Tenor Level 6.
Academically, Arlotta consistently made the Honor Roll, starting in eighth grade, and earned an award this year in ELA for his High Standard of Excellence. He does not shy away from talking about his early, very difficult, experiences with ADHD. But, he said that once he got the routine down and better understood what to expect going forward, he felt much more comfortable and confident with himself.
His first experience on stage was in the fourth grade class play. Those that saw him commented that he seemed a natural. And, he felt that way, too.
“Ever since I can remember, I was a theater enthusiast, and up to that point, I was also a big baseball fan. However, playing the outfield just wasn’t my thing. Instead of chasing down the ball, I’d sit on the grass and collect the daisies,” Arlotta said.
At that point, his parents encouraged him to take acting seriously. And he did. During the following year he landed a small role with the Clock Tower Players in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. “ I had my own musical number and that was fun,” he said. And then came the lead role in Oliver at Random Farms and he was off to the races! From there he joined the White Plains Performing Arts Center summer program and nailed one of the lead roles in The Wiz, that of the Scarecrow.
“It’s fun being up there on stage and being a different person and coming up with their stories and then discovering who they are and expressing that through the play and its author,” Arlotta said.
Currently, Arlotta can be seen, on weekends, in an Off Off Broadway showcase entitled Super. Interestingly, he got the call to audition because of his role in Carrie: The Musical, then being performed by Random Farms. The choreographer was so impressed with his performance that he called the director of Super and recommended an audition. During the week, he is the Stage Manager for the Random Farms production of Annie, Jr., at the Tarrytown Music Hall, managing three separate casts. His multiple responsibilities give him more of an insider’s view of what goes on behind the scenes.