Aspiring stars get tips on the basics

Actress helps youngsters feel comfortable on stage

November 19, 2006|By Nora Koch | Nora Koch,Special to The Sun

Aspiring actors and singers came to the stage with nothing more promising than their enthusiasm.

"Use your outside singing voices," yelled Valerie diLorenzo over the voices of eight children whose heads barely were seen above the baby grand piano in the Carroll Arts Center theater in Westminster on a recent Friday afternoon.

Three hours later, the cast, ages 7 to 10, performed a mini-Broadway revue, dancing in sync and belting out the lyrics to a splashy tune from the musical Gypsy, showing off the results of the afternoon workshop on the basics of musical theater singing, acting and dancing.

"I love being able to tap into their imaginations," said diLorenzo, who has spent more than 25 years performing off-Broadway and conducting youth arts education classes.

"We all know the reality of being a star," she said. "And we won't talk about that today. They want to have fun and learn what it is to be on stage."

DiLorenzo was in Westminster for a performance of her one-woman cabaret show, Just a Broadway Baby.

Joined by piano accompanist Jeff English, who flew in from Michigan, diLorenzo taught the class and did a pop vocal styling workshop for teenagers.

A longtime friend of Sandy Oxx, executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council, diLorenzo performed for two seasons at McDaniel College's Theater on the Hill and has staged other workshops in Carroll County.

A former public relations professional, she left the corporate world nearly 15 years ago to pursue her stage dreams and work in arts education.

She performs about 25 concerts a year, and, in New York, teaches 16-week courses for budding starlets from ages 9 months to 18 years.

After her Friday afternoon rehearsals, diLorenzo cued the stage lighting and welcomed the eager group to the theater.

After gushing over the children's stories about school plays and community theater, diLorenzo began with a primer on stage language -- downstage, upstage, stage right, orchestra pit, fly space.

Other exercises introduced the pupils to vocalizing, breathing techniques when singing, facial expressions, and the process of putting together a project.

At the workshop's end, the class performed for parents.

"It was fun," said Malori Francis, a 7-year-old Manchester resident who aspires to be an actress and a scientist. "I love to sing, and the dancing was fun, too!"

"I like doing plays and acting and singing," said Amber Wigget, 10, of Hampstead. "It was really interesting, learning how to dance and sing together."

For diLorenzo, the most rewarding part of her work is seeing children thrive and feel pride in their performance.

"They started, and it was a mess," she said. "And then at the end, you see their smiles, and they're more comfortable with their bodies.

"Every single one of these kids walked out of here feeling good about themselves," she said.

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