RIVERSIDE — Whenever the curtain opens at a St. Mary Academy Bay View production, Cecelia Egan can be found gracing the stage while sitting atop a piano, riding in a car, or starring in the school’s upcoming Manhattan at the Bay, traveling within a well-known surrey with the fringe on top. The freshman and Bay View Player lives with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that limits her mobility from the neck down. The school shared that Egan first captured the spotlight in the spokes of her wheelchair four years ago as a fifth-grader and has since been a beacon of light and inspiration on and off the stage at Bay View ever since.
Egan has recently been selected the 2018 national recipient of the “High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Not only is she the first Bay View student to receive this award, she is also the first Rhode Islander to win it at the national level.
Bay View Performing Arts Department Chair Christine Kavanagh explained that through her personal courage, Egan has proven that the stage welcomes anyone with the determination and openness to showcase a love of performing despite physical dependence on others.
“Watching her on stage gives all of us the ability to see what she can do — she’s unstoppable,” said Kavanagh.
Egan shared that when her parents told her that the school wanted to nominate her for the “Heart of the Arts Award” she thought — “Why me?”
“I think Cecelia is very unassuming and doesn’t realize this even about herself,” Kavanagh said. “She exudes a certain strength and a definite spirituality in just being who she is. It’s not easy I’m sure every day to manage and do some of the things she is being asked to do from a physical point of view. She’s a real tour de force. She’s independent and it comes across in a very humble way to all of us. We are reminded every day that we are all working at this together. It’s all about the journey and we are very lucky to be on this ride that Cecilia has provided for us.”
Egan shared that even though she decided to try out for the Bay View Players on a whim, she instantly fell in love with performing.
“I thought, I’ll just try it and see how it goes and I really enjoyed it and I’ve kept doing it,” she said. “During rehearsal it’s a lot of work, but when the show comes together it’s really fun. I always want to do it. I like performing because it gives me an opportunity to ignore everything going on in life so I can just be me for a second.”
The purpose of the “Hearts of the Art Award” is to honor those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. With friends, family and her school offering their loving support and encouragement, Egan shared she is excited to travel to Chicago, a first time trip to the windy city to accept the award during the 2018 NFHS Summer Conference. On April 5, Egan was recognized at the state level at the Rhode Island Interscholastic League award luncheon.
See Egan and the entire ensemble take the stage at Manhattan at the Bay as the annual renowned fundraiser celebrates its 35 year. “Bay View Live! Cabaret 35” will take place April 26 - 28. Showtimes are as follows: Thursday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m.; Friday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 28 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Ticket price for all shows is $15 per person. To purchase tickets, visit www.ticketor.com/bayviewboxoffice.