WASHINGTON, D.C. — At age 16, Clarksburg High School Student Mateo Ferro will achieve something many performing artists only dream of: he will perform at the Kennedy Center.
Ferro’s interest in musical theater began while a student at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, where a teacher encouraged him to audition for the school productions when he was in sixth grade.
“I didn’t until the following year, but I got the lead and I fell in love with it,” Ferro said, adding that his dream roles would be Evan Hansen in “Dear Evan Hansen,” Alexander Hamilton in Miranda’s “Hamilton,” and Usnavi in a professional production of “In the Heights.”
After landing roles in several other school productions – including Donkey in Clarksburg High School’s production of “Shrek” last year – Ferro enrolled last summer at the Young Artists of America at Strathmore, a North Bethesda educational nonprofit program, in which established artists provide mentorship to young performing arts students.
Ferro performed in a two-week intensive production of the acclaimed musical “In the Heights.” Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it depicts three days in the lives of residents of New York City’s Spanish-speaking neighborhood of Liberty Heights, and won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical. In the YAA intensive production Ferro played the lead role of Usnavi de la Vega, which he counts as one of his favorite roles to date.
The casting director for the Kennedy Center’s upcoming semi-staged concert production of “In the Heights” contacted YAA Artistic Director Rolando Sanz last fall in search of a young artist who could rap. Sanz recommended Ferro, who was then invited to audition for and ultimately cast in the role of Sonny, Usnavi’s nephew.
“It’s been a pleasure watching Mateo develop as a performer from his first day at our summer Performing Arts Intensive to hearing he had been offered the role of Sonny,” Sanz said.
Ferro – who will perform alongside co-stars Vanessa Hudgens, Anthony Ramos and Eden Espinosa – credited his YAA experience with preparing him for the role.
“YAA has showed me the professional attitude that needs to be applied to theater,” Ferro said. “They taught me how to balance everything but keep the drive going.”
“In the Heights” will run at the Kennedy Center from March 21 through March 25.