By Kristin Schultz
The curtain is going up on a new theater program for children and young adults in the Capital Region. Concert production company Broadway Sings, under the direction of Charles Bergell and local vocal coach and Broadway alum Lisa Franklin, have joined forces to form a Young Artists program.
The Young Artists program gives participants the opportunity not only to put on productions, but to learn from Broadway actors, actresses and technical professionals.
“I always wanted to have an education component,” said Bergell. “I want to bring students the resources and connect them with Broadway professionals so they can learn from them. We can combine Lisa’s amazing talents and our professional resources.”
Bergell and Franklin met onstage more than three decades ago and, as people do, lost touch. They reconnected a year and a half ago and noticed how their two businesses — his concert production and her voice teaching — overlapped in purpose and goals. So they became business partners.
“The Broadway family is one big family,” said Bergell. “We realized we’d both worked with high school students and had worked with professionals to help teach students.”
It is those professional connections that Bergell and Franklin plan to use to inspire and teach young, aspiring actors in the Capital Region through workshops and mentoring.
The Young Artists Program got off to a good start as students performed “Peter Pan” at the Schenectady JCC over the weekend of April 22.
Five of Niskayuna resident Paula Gorman’s children were involved in the show. Liam, 12, worked the stage lights; Maeve, 10, played John; Declan, 8, played Michael; Vivien, 8, played Tinkerbell; and Fiona, 6, played a crocodile and a brave girl.
“There were auditions and then there were rehearsals from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. during the week of spring break and then they performed,” said Paula.
Although this was a “non-flying” production (for safety and logistical reasons), the aspiring actors did learn about sword fighting from a professional stage combat coach as well as other points of stagecraft like “finding the light,” and what to say and do at an audition and rehearsal (hint: it’s not called “play practice,” it’s called “rehearsal.”).
“I’ve been blown away by the community’s commitment to theater for young kids,” said Bergell. “These kids are going from one show to another. We hope this is a fun and exciting project that gives them something really special. We want it to be an experience they’ll never forget.”
Next up, the program will put on a production of “13 the Musical.”
“It’s a great show and really relevant for kids this age,” said Franklin. It is scheduled to be performed July 7 and 8.
In addition to planning more shows both locally and around the country, the Broadway Sings Young Artists Program is looking for a theater from which to base its operations.
Future plans also include connecting parents of current Broadway actors with parents of aspiring thespians in order to provide information about avoiding scams and other issues unique to theater parents.
“Albany is a wonderful place for theater, as is Schenectady. We would love to be part of that community helping to make the area a center for young artists,” said Bergell.