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New beginnings await talented local youth

December 10, 2009
By J.T. Whitehouse
New York City talent scout Peter Sklar visited Boardman Nov. 21 to host a free lecture for students interested in the performing arts. While he was giving the lecture, he was scoping out local talent that he would invite to take part in his Beginnings workshops in New York and London.


“After he had interviewed all of the students, Peter then told the students who he wanted to go to the workshops,” said Ruth Balestra, owner of Ruth’s Robics studio in Boardman where the lecture was presented. “None of us really knew what the end result was going to be.”


Sklar gives the lectures throughout the country and has been known to select young talent from time to time. Balestra said she knew he could possibly pull one or two kids aside after the lecture. What she didn’t know was that Sklar would be pulling more than a few aside and inviting them to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He ended up interviewing 11 young artists in training, who will now have an opportunity to become part of the Beginnings workshops.


Balestra said this is the first time anything like this has happened to her students. Beginnings workshops are one-week, intense courses designed to teach kids acting, singing, dancing, and whole other array of classes to help kids develop their true potential in the performing arts. The London workshop is unprecedented in authentic English and Shakespearean theater training, cultural and historical education.


Apparently Sklar apparently saw a lot of potential talent in Boardman and he selected those he felt had what it takes to make it in the performing arts. As part of their invitation, they can attend the workshops where on the last day, the students will be showcased at the prestigious Orpheum Theater, Balestra said. They will each perform solo before an audience of several major talent representatives (agents and managers) and casting directors. Over the years, these industry-attended showcases have resulted in hundreds of bookings including principal roles on Fox TV’s "The O.C.", TNT’s "Charmed," Broadway’s "Les Miserables," "Hairspray," "Legally Blond," "Grease," "Billy Elliot," CBS’s "Young and the Restless," ABC’s "Home improvement," USA’s "Law & Order," numerous guest spots on TV’s Nickelodeon, and a variety of other major roles. At the end of the workshop, Balestra said the students will receive a listing of credentials and a professional format for an industry-standard resume.


Balestra said the students will have to pay a fee to enter the workshops, but she said it is worth it.


“They will pay, but the price is minimum for all the amenities they will  be receiving. They will be housed for a week in a nice resort in New York, with good nutritious food, and more than 25 hours of expert instruction in a wide variety of performance disciplines including dance, voice, acting, character development, self-defense, stand-up comedy, and more,” Balestra said. “In London they will participate in daily classes and workshops with professional instructors from British film, British television, members of Royal National Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company. They will get to see 'Harry Potter' film sites, Westminster Abbey, and the British Museum.”


Students selected from the area include Madison Horvath of New Middletown, McCallen Warrick of Boardman, Gabriella Thomas of Canfield, Mary Smrek of Boardman, Caroline Constantinovich of Boardman, Javonne Lafontaine of Youngstown, Victoria Climo of New Springfield, Jacob Henry of New Springfield, Jessica Joerndt of Boardman, Christine Libbey of Boardman and Madison Reed of Boardman.


In the end, the whole experience for the students will be a launching platform for a career in the performing arts. For Balestra, it is something that she is proud to have brought to the area.


“I’m very excited about all of these students from my studio and our community being selected," she said. “They will be able to learn so much from these talented men and women in the course of one week. Many kids in our country never have an opportunity to work with actual cast members from Broadway or London. The people who will be working with these kids are the best in the industry.”


The classes will take place this coming spring and summer. As for Balestra, the selection still has her head spinning with joy.


“I have been ecstatic about Peter’s Sklar visiting our studio, and I’m so excited for the students who were selected," she said. “I’m very proud of these kids, and I’m impressed with the level of self confidence they exemplified as they interviewed with Mr. Sklar. The theater and dance training has developed these kids to have a strong self-esteem, and it is a wonderful to see kids in our area picked for such prestigious schooling.”

Article Photos

Students selected to take part in New York City talent scout Peter Sklar’s Beginnings workshops include, in front, Madison Horvath of New Middletown, McCallen Warrick of Boardman, Gabriella Thomas of Canfield, and in back, Mary Smrek of Boardman, Caroline Constantinovich of Boardman, Javonne Lafontaine of Youngstown, and Victoria Climo of New Springfield. Other students invited to the workshops not pictured include: Jacob Henry of New Springfield, Jessica Joerndt of Boardman, Christine Libbey of Boardman and Madison Reed of Boardman.

 
 

 

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