Rising stars get help from pros at P.K. Yonge

Published: Friday, July 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 11:15 p.m.


New session begins Tuesday

What: Rising Star, a summer program put on in conjunction with the P.K. Yonge Performing Arts Center.
When: Tuesday through July 16
Where: P.K. Yonge School

They call it Rising Star, a summer performing-arts program at P.K. Yonge for young people of all ages.
Students here are busy absorbing lessons in acting, dancing and singing. But what they're also gaining at a tender age is lesson in being a professional.
"We're trying to bring a little bit of New York, a little bit of Broadway to Gainesville," says Sherwin Mackintosh, director of the Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge and one of two people who helped develop Rising Star. "We have a lot of talent and I have been encouraged by the level of talent. We're trying to provide a real professional atmosphere."
Geoffrey Owens, who played Elvin on the hit series "The Cosby Show" and is currently on staff at the FSU Acting Conservatory, is one of the teachers at Rising Star. He too believes that while the program teaches technical skills in the performing arts, what students really get out of it is a lesson in people skills and acting like a professional.
"This program is all about young people working together, learning how to learn, learning how to rehearse and learning how to perform," Owens says.
"They learn everything from how to be in a rehearsal situation in terms of attitude, etiquette, as well as learning lines, blocking, dancing, singing. In fact, in a way that is the most important part that they learn how to work together with other people in the right way," he says.
Rising Star just completed its first summer session and another begins Tuesday. That program runs through July 16 and will culminate in a performance showcasing the students' talents.
Mackintosh, who co-wrote the musicals "Slingshot" and "Upside Down," and longtime friend Keith Watson, CEO of Keith Watson Productions and producer of Rising Star Academy, are the inspiration behind Rising Star.
"One of our goals was really to have a confidence-boosting opportunity for the kids," says Watson "It's really encouraging to see them come and the different levels of ability, and training working as a team and all coming together."
Andrew Suchman, a 16-year-old who attends P.K. Yonge, says he joined the summer program to enhance his acting, singing and dancing abilities, and ended up learning how to take the material he is handed more seriously.
"You have all these professional people who know what they're talking about," he says. "They've experienced it."
Studies show that involvement in the performing arts has a positive influence on children's development and in the development of both the right and left sides of the brain, Mackintosh says.
"Children in performing arts do better on the SATs and score higher in math because of being able to juggle a lot of things at the same time," he says.
The performing arts also have a positive influence on children's self-esteem.
Judging by the excited chatter that fills the theater during rehearsal, and the delighted smiles as one child masters a dance step and another runs toward Watson to show off his new trick of spinning a hula hoop on one arm, that goal is often achieved at Rising Star.
Julian Ares, 16, of Eastside High School, sees Rising Star as a place he can finally fit in.
"It's a lot friendlier here than school," he says. "It's a lot less judging. I enjoy it more that way. At school I'm an outcast. Here, I'm all right."
Students train hard and look forward to their end-of-session musical. The production is a composite of various plays that can range from an adaptation of "Stone Soup," performed by the elementary school students, various scenes from "Charlie Brown," by the middle school, and scenes from William Shakespeare's plays by the high-schoolers. Both classic and modern Broadway pieces from such hits as "Whizz" and "Wicked" are among those featured, as well as a rendition of "There's No Business Like Show Business."
The summer program however, is primarily an opportunity for children and teens to express themselves, discover their talents and have some fun.
"Today for the first time it really clicked," Owens said during a recent day at Session I. "This is gratifying, but it's also fun. Especially, I see my 6-year-old stamp and put out his arms on that last note of 'There's No Business Like Show Business.' Oh gosh! It's great."

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