Brendtro’s show must go on


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — We are able to take you behind-the-scenes to see and hear preparation for upcoming shows later this week in Sioux Falls.

Raena Brendtro is a 20-year-old Sioux Falls resident who will be a junior at Augustana University this fall. She studies English and classics at Augie, and she knows what she wants to do someday.

“I want to be a teacher,” Brendtro said. “I’m a lifelong learner.”

“She’s just the most optimistic and pleasant person you will ever meet,” Blake Anderson said.

“She is the most capable person I’ve ever met,” Tatiana Chance said. “She is so kind.”

Blake Anderson, a student at Tufts University in Massachusetts and long-time friend of Brendtro, is director of the upcoming Fine Arts for Friedreich’s Ataxia show.

“It’s wonderful and stressful and brilliant all at the same time,” Anderson said.

Augustana University student Tatiana Chance is one of the masters of ceremonies, but not the only one.

“We’re going to have broadway songs and MCs,” Brendtro said. “I’m an MC, very excited about that, and then at the end I give a speech, just kind of FA and like what I go through and everything, and we’ll have a silent auction at intermission.”

“I think what’s really amazing about just the youth aspect of it, how we’re all students putting this on,” Anderson said.

Brendtro was diagnosed in 2013 with Friedreich’s ataxia, or FA. She uses a wheelchair because of this rare disease that harms the nervous system. 2016 saw the birth of Fine Arts for Friedreich’s Ataxia, or FA4FA for short.

“It was started actually in 2016 by a couple friends of mine who prepared the first FA4FA show as kind of a surprise for me, and we’ve just continued it every year since and I took over a couple of years ago,” Brendtro said.

Fine Arts for Friedreich’s ataxia raises money for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. Brendtro says the annual goal is $10,000.

“The show means a lot to me because my friends and I are just like trying to give a new narrative of FA beyond I guess kind of what you would just see at first glance,” Brendtro said. “I’m not just a person in a wheelchair with a chronic illness; I’m more than that. I’m a performing and I still smile and laugh and having a great time living.”

“Raena Brendtro’s one of my best friends and just being able to raise money for a good reason to find a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia and just raise awareness as well,” Chance said.

Anderson has lofty praise.

“I’ve done theater for over 10 years now, and some of these kids, the way that they’re performing and singing, it beats some of the professionals that I’ve seen in my many years of being a theater-goer,” Anderson said.

The disease that has impacted Brendtro does not summarize her.

“I don’t just want to be thought of as someone in a wheelchair because I have this whole life separate from my disease, and my disease was just kind of added to my life,” Brendtro said.

So here she is and here they all are- preparing to put on a show.

“I have so much to me and so much of a personality and so many things that I’m passionate about that just aren’t even FA,” Brendtro said. “And so I think that FA4FA was a really good way just to kind of bring together things that I am passionate about like musical theater and performing with just the disease being the underlying cause for like why we’re singing and why we’re performing.”

The show will have two performances: one at 2:00 in the afternoon and another at 7:00 at night both this coming Saturday at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls.

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