Dedication and enthusiasm are important personality traits to have when launching an idea into reality. But, if you get the right idea, at the right time, before you know it, all that hard work begins to pay off and you reach the "tipping point." It's not a notion anymore, you're actually doing what you set out to accomplish.
In the case of Maureen Alfiero, founder of CTKidsOnStage, you could almost feel that the reality of all her efforts were in the throes of paying off. Here she was, proudly looking around the auditorium and watching 20 or so student actors performing food commercials they had created no more than five minutes earlier. Her workshop partner, Emily Webster, was busy directing the show, but was clearly as enthusiastic as Alfiero about their workshop so far. Each of them were singing one another's praises when asked how they came to this point.
"People kept asking me about different programs and I realized there wasn't any one central place for information," said Alfiero when asked about why she decided to launch CTKidsOnStage.com. "Being a resource for child actors in Connecticut is a niche area. I happened to have a lot on information because I have two children involved in the performing arts. It seemed like a good idea to me to pull it all together. Now other parents who are searching for ways to help their kids be involved in the arts have a place to go find what they need."
Alfiero has a blog and a website full on information. Once the online sites were launched things started to take off she says. CtKidsOnStage's recent three-day acting workshop for children held at the Killingworth Town Hall (located on the grounds of the Killingworth Congregational church) was the second workshop Alfiero has coordinated along with Webster. A good number of enthusiastic attendees gives further credence to the fact that this area is of interest to many young talents who live nearby.
The acting workshops were designed for kids ages 10 to 17. Acting abilities range from complete beginners to some who are brushing up on skills to take on new paths. "Many of these kids are already well on their way in their acting career. Several have had roles in local plays and musicals and are ready to move on to more challenges," said Alriero.
The workshops covered a broad array of topics. From improvisation techniques to acting in a commercial. "Emily gives a taste of everything over the three days of the workshop. She likes working with kids and uses her skills as an actor as well as knowledge of the acting community to help in the personal and professional development of these budding actors," said Alfiero.
And from what could be heard from the stage, the kids involved were not holding back in their desire to convincingly sell cans of mixed vegetables or mustard - two of the assigned products they needed to develop commercials for. "Emily just has a way to relax everyone to be free to explore different avenues of acting," said Alfiero. "She is great at building character, helping these kids to be able to let themselves get into the various roles."
"I loved the workshop," said Casey Mills, who will be a sophmore in the fall at Valley Regional High School. "I learned more in those six hours than I ever learned anything else in that short period of time," he continued. "I wished it was longer and am hoping we have more opportunities to work with Emily. I really like doing the monologues, it was great practice for future auditions. Emily made the workshop fun, she kept everyone enthusiastic and never left anyone out."
Casey is not new to the stage. This past year he was in his high school production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. "I was Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie and in junior high I was Curly in Oklahoma, and Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man. Before middle school I was in some summer camps with Peter Pan and Grease," he says.
"I want to major in theatre, acting, music in college and would hope to be on Broadway one day," he adds.
A former star of both stage and screen herself, Webster started early as a child actress in over 200 commercials. She had a five-year role in the Fox network television show Small Wonder, has won numerous awards and had starring roles in such films as Troop Beverly Hills and Caddie Woodlawn, as well as the Emmy award winning series Christy. Webster also worked on the New York City stage at such esteemed houses as the WPA and with John Guare at Lincoln Center.
In discussing her career path, Webster noted "I left acting behind at the young age of 18 to attend Bennington College in Vermont and the American Musical Dramatic Academy in NY. After these educational stints, I shifted energies towards representation and established my own department at Acme Talent & Literary.
"I was at Acme for almost 15 years coaching and directing clients before I transitioned to TWLA at the very latter stages of my career and focused on their Celebrity division. I wanted to leave the crazy world of being a “Hollywood” agent behind. Coaching is what I love to do the most and is a way for me to serve the arts."
According to Webster's website at ivanhope.com, her skills as a teacher have been long in the making. She has taught in the Beverly Hills High School's Drama Department, The Academy of Arts and Sciences, TVI Actors Studio, In The Act, and The Actor's Network to name just a few. Webster relocated to the CT area a year ago and now teaches at the Performing Arts Center of Connecticut in Trumbull, Hartford Children's Theatre in Hartford, and the OddFellows Playhouse in Middletown.
Alfiero's background is more in the business side of things, but she also grew up loving loving theater, taking acting classes and performing plays whenever possible. "As an adult I have performed with Artful Living (Chris Solemene), Nutmeg Players, and performed many times on stage at the Ivoryton Playhouse, most recently in Barnum last December.
For parents of children interested in pursuing an acting career, if only for a while, a visit to CTKidsOnStage.com is encouraged. There you will find dozens of auditions, 19 summer theater camps throughout the state, tips on acting, book recommendations, technical workshops, acting classes, and a host of other opportunities to nurture the artistic and professional development of young performers.
Alfiero hopes that this is just the start. "We will be planning other workshops for the future," she states. "The town hall is a great location and Emily and I love the ability to help others get and stay involved in exploring the performing arts." In fact, two years ago, prior to her current role, Alfiero was involved in the Killingworth Youth Theatre's production of Alice's Adventures which raised $800 to help in the renovation of the Old Town Hall. Sometimes things have a way of coming full circle.