The Sicklerville Sun. July 10, 2017

Kaitlin and Kristin Bassi grew up surrounded by music. The Sicklerville sisters sang in their church choir, took piano lessons and often watched musicals on television. The duo eventually transferred this passion to the stage, and the stage they chose was with Mainstage Center for the Arts.

“We wanted to perform and didn’t know where to start,” Kaitlin said. “This place just seemed so welcoming.”

Having grown up in Gloucester Township, the siblings were familiar with Mainstage, and Kaitlin took the leap and joined the company’s children’s theater program in 2010. Kristin became part of the Mainstage family in 2013 after seeing how much fun her sister was having, and the pair has continued having fun with the nonprofit ever since.

“I really like putting together the acting, the singing and the dancing into one,” Kaitlin said. “It’s a lot of fun performing. It’s very rewarding to just leave yourself all on the stage.”

This summer marks the second time the Bassi sisters will perform together in a Mainstage production, the first time being a production of “Wonderland” in 2014. Later this month, 19-year-old Kaitlin will take on the role of Frenchie in “Grease,” while Kristin, 16, will provide support as a cheerleader in the ensemble. Performances are July 22–23 and 28–29.

The role of Frenchie is double-cast with Kaitlin and Laura DiStefano of Bellmawr, and the Rutgers-Camden student said she and DiStefano have been able to bounce great ideas off one another.

“Laura is really passionate with the role,” Kaitlin said. “I feel like we’re working together to create the character.”

Kaitlin sees a little bit of herself in Frenchie, too.

“She’s so energetic and so supportive. I like to think she’s the glue of the Pink Ladies. She always checks up on her friends; she’s so loyal to them,” she said. “I like to think I have those similar qualities.”

In addition to her supporting role in “Grease,” Kristin is also bringing the villainous Demon of Death to life in the Children’s Theatre production of “Once on This Island, Jr.” from July 12–14. Kaitlin’s first role with Mainstage was a peasant girl in the same production, and watching her sister in “Once on This Island, Jr.” four years ago was the first time Kristin took in a live theater production.

“I feel like it’s such a part of me and like it is passing on the torch,” Kristin said. “I’m also really excited for the role I have. It’s such a cool part. I manipulate the story so much.”

This is the first time Kristin is taking on a villain’s role, although she joked she had practice in “being mean” to her big sister. The hardest part of the role, according to Kristin, is the vocals.

“I’m playing a male part and I’m not changing the key of the songs,” Kristin said, “so I’m singing in a male octave.”

As a rising sophomore at Timber Creek High School, Kristin is still a part of Mainstage’s Children’s Theatre, which is geared toward students in sixth through 12th grades. A member of Timber Creek’s Class of 2016, Kaitlin is now in Mainstage’s apprentice program, working with fourth- and fifth-graders this summer.

“It’s such a great outlet for kids,” Kaitlin said of Mainstage. “Being weird is cool. If you’re weird, there’s a part for you. If you have a quirk about you, there’s a role that fits that. And I think that’s awesome about theater.”

“Those kids who are like outcasts in school,” Kristin added, “it’s nice for them to come here. It’s a safe space. No one is going to judge them here.”

The pair also had only great things to say about Mainstage staff members and directors. Kristin said everyone is supportive, and Kaitlin remarked how it’s clear they want all the students to succeed.

“They pull the talent out of you,” she said, “and all the gifts you didn’t even know you had.”

Both Bassis hope to incorporate theater into the rest of their lives. Kaitlin could see herself as a part-time music director. Kristin would love to continue acting as a hobby.

“I really love performing and I love putting on shows,” Kristin said. “I would like to keep performing through adulthood.”

The sisters would both be thrilled to keep their connection with Mainstage Center for the Arts, too.

“You get really close here,” Kaitlin said, “which is enough to keep us coming back.”

For more information about Mainstage Center for the Arts and tickets to “Grease,” “Once on This Island, Jr.” and other summer shows, please visit www.mainstage.org.

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