Izzy Pilato and the Magic of Theater

Upper Main Line Community Theater member Izzy Pilato participates in a rehearsal for Seussical the Musical


“There is magic happening here,” observed Upper Main Line YMCA (UMLY) Senior Executive Director Helen Flanders when she stopped in at one of the numerous ongoing rehearsals by the Upper Main Line YMCA Community Theater group. 

12-year-old Izzy Pilato is proof of that magic. 

UMLY began its theater program in 1999 with theater programming and camp. The productions grew so much in popularity and size, that UMLY began community productions in 2015. Now known as the Upper Main Line YMCA Community Theater, they feature two major productions a year.

Discovering the theater

Two and a half years ago Izzy and her mother discovered the Upper Main Line YMCA’s theater program through an audition poster for Annie. Izzy had recently seen a play at her school and thought this might be something fun to try. So she did—and she got a small part singing in the show.

But it wasn’t particularly easy for Izzy, as she has a speech impediment. Her mother, Magan, says that Izzy has struggled to be understood her entire life.

Janelle Brandberg is UMLY’s Director of Arts and Humanities and has been the theater director since 2016. She never turns anyone away from a show and believes that everyone has something to give.

“I remember her first audition,” recalls Janelle. “She stared at the floor the entire time, couldn’t even look up.”

Growing in confidence

To see Izzy now, you can’t imagine that this young girl, so full of energy and enthusiasm, was once really too nervous to even look up. Izzy does admit she is far more comfortable singing than speaking, in fact, she says, “Singing is my favorite thing to do!” 

Izzy has come a long way in a short time earning her first speaking part last fall—as Woman #1 in the show Newsies. “Izzy came home saying she felt like a star on stage,” says Magan. “She couldn’t believe she was given a speaking role in front of so many people.”

“I think it gave me a little more confidence,” adds Izzy, “and I’m excited to do more!” 

“It was such a huge accomplishment for her,” continues Magan. “To be able to deliver her line on a stage meant so much to her—and to me. This year, in sixth grade, Izzy’s social circle has grown thanks to the confidence she has gained with the plays.”  

Overcoming struggles

Izzy, and her mother, are grateful for the Y’s theater program and the friends Izzy has gained over the last couple of years. In fact, it has really helped her navigate the difficulties of the new challenges and social struggles of middle school this year. 

“Speech is never an issue when Izzy is here at the Y,” says Magan. “In fact, Izzy’s speech therapist at school believes that all the singing and acting has really helped her speech. And, her social skills have gotten stronger. She has found a comfortable place where she can be herself.”

Not slowing down

Izzy’s enthusiasm for the theater is contagious. “I am going to do all the shows now!” she says. She loves being on the stage, seeing all the moving parts coming together and the excitement that comes with it. “Acting is like being in other people’s shoes—you can be anybody. When the audience applauds, it makes me happy and I know the show is doing well.” 

Ultimately, Izzy wants to continue doing what she loves and that may include directing. “I’d like to see another part of it—where things go and how everything develops. It is SO much fun,” says Izzy. “It is the magic—seeing all the parts come together and where your part fits in.”
Izzy will be appearing as a Who in UMLY’s production of Seussical, April 11-13. Get tickets here.