COVID put the Rockaway Theatre Company on hold. However, one RTC member has embarked with his brother on a quarantine project which has had unexpected results.
Nick Safier, a personal fitness trainer, has been acting since playing the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz in sixth grade. After playing the lead in The Great Gatsby at RTC, he was excitedly looking forward to hitting the stage in Jesus Christ Superstar when the pandemic threw everything up into the air.
Without his Rockaway home away from home, Safier says, “I really didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Then around late March he started posting videos on the popular TikTok app.
“At first, the goal was to build up a social media presence to help me as an actor when auditions resumed,” Safier said.
But soon “it became so much more.”
“I randomly made one video with my brother Gabriel…and it struck a chord. People loved the relationship we had as brothers. I believe people also loved it because it was about brothers, our humanity and love for each other.”
He notes that Gabe, who has Down syndrome, loves the spotlight, and he, his brother, and sister, Kira, all “love to be on stage or to be theatrical in some way.”
So more videos followed. The response was more than the Safier brothers expected.
To date they have amassed more than 728,000 followers, moving towards one million. Safier’s videos have received more than 7.4 million “Likes.” And they have received comments from as far away as Japan, England, Germany, Scotland and every state in the U.S.
But more than that has been the deeply felt responses they have received.
What has struck Safier most has been the “incredibly uplifting, positive” words from around the world.
“I’ve received comments such as, ‘This was the first time I smiled today’, ‘We need more of this in the world’, ‘This is (what) people need to be seeing, videos that bring people together’, ‘I look forward to seeing your videos every day. It’s the brightest part of my day,’ and ‘The world feels so dark and depressing lately, and this makes it all feel better, as if there is hope for the future’.”
There are now well over 250 videos online. The short clips show the brothers walking across fields, swimming, sharing a sunset and, smartly dressed for the occasion, getting ready “to bring in 2021 on a high note.”
“We make videos spreading love and awareness every day,” Safier said.
They have also led Safier to complete a movie script. He’s now aiming for production and development. Centered around a man and his younger brother with Down syndrome, he says it is “inspired by love and compassion received from people who love the message we are putting out there.”
About this unexpected pandemic project, he notes, “If you asked me in March if I ever thought this is where we would be almost a year later, I never could’ve imagined. There is something very special about the journey this has taken. It’s even more special because I get to take it with my brother.”
“My goal then and now remains the same- I want to continue to spread love, hope, compassion, and awareness of people with Down syndrome on TikTok and Instagram (@nicksafier).”
Now stars of the smallest screen, Nick and Gabriel’s story might be told all in one image: two brothers sharing a hug.
By Dan Guarino
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