Testimonial #15: Laurie Vega

Testimonial #15:  Laurie Vega,  Office Manager of Star Management

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

A teacher that touched my life….. is Mrs. Ext (yes that was her real name.) Mrs. Ext was THE premier voice teacher at the High School of Music & Art when I attended from’79-’82. This was my first introduction to formal vocal training and she was no one to mess with. If you wanted to sing, she was going to make you the best singer you could be. If you were there to waste her time – you were OUT! No nonsense. All the students respected her and knew that with her leadership they would go far. And amazingly, she taught how to sing without actually singing herself. Amazing! I later got to hear her sing and she was an amazing opera singer but no one knew what she sounded like – she just had a magical way of making you sound like you – not her. Mrs. Ext was the best, prime example of what a truly outstanding professor is made of: tough stuff but who gets the job done, hands down! And [someone] who you never ever forget.

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

The arts are re-igniting my community by…. getting folks back in the game who have been off stage and out of the loop since high school. I manage to organize a one-woman show at least 4 times a year for myself and each time I do my best to reignite that fire that some of my fellow classmates lost over the years. I’ve managed to get some folks back on stage and now they’ve caught the fever. Being on stage, even for just an hour, in front of your friends family and peers is just the most incredibly liberating feeling!!

Testimonial #14: Marisa Vitali, Actor, Producer, Writer

Marisa’s film Miracle Year is in production and will be shooting this fall at Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, in her hometown of Northport, Long Island.

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

A teacher that touched my life, was none other than Frances McGarry herself. At the time, Frances McGarry was my TheaterWorks drama teacher, where she had us breathe life into the Classics. By the time I got to TheaterWorks, I was already performing and starring in the school musicals. Studying with Frances was a GREAT reality check. There was no “Star.” Here it was a Troupe, so leave your “EGO” at the door Please, Thank You very much.

What I got from her was how to be a PROFESSIONAL. I learned how to collaborate with others to fulfill the artistic vision of a piece, how to ask for help and most of all to how to consistently show up and do “The Work.” She held us in extremely high standards and there was no room for err. She wasn’t gonna take sh*t from anyone, especially some pimply, hormonal, hot shit teenager. Looking back it was the first time I was treated as an adult, a colleague, a fellow collaborator. When everything else in life at that time was an emotional chaos, when the door closed and the bell rung for TheaterWorks to begin, it was the time to achieve the very BEST of you.

marisa vitali

Testimonial #13: Van Brown

Van Brown has been an actor, director and public speaker in various roles on stage, radio and television. His notable performances as Mark Twain continue to surprise audiences with unique satire, irony and wit.
How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?
Even in the second grade, we still went to the library for story time. One particular day, Mrs. DePass, a wonderful librarian with a marvelous musical voice, selected “Jim Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn” by Mark Twain. Perhaps an aggressive piece of literature for seven year old children, but how delicious it was to be treated to something more than baby stories! Well, I about fell out of my chair with laughter. Afterwards, I went to her and asked if she had any more stories like that. She said, smiling:  “Oh, we have hundreds of them. Soon, I’ll be able to introduce you to several that you will be able to read for yourself.”
That was about 1955. Twenty years later, I began performing as Mark Twain, and still do. Perhaps along the way, someone may have been encouraged to read because of it. I would hope so. Here’s a funny story: 
Best to you,

The First 100 Stories: Testimonial #12

Gabrielle Ieda:  Emergency Medical Services

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

A teacher that touched my life…..

Life teachers come in many different packages…Two came in the wonderful form of teachers while I was in high school; the other, was Mom, who possessed a love for the arts as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, the earliest memories I have are of Mom running amok trying to care for 4 kids and a home, all the while, ,music always filling the house with a wonderful, happy atmosphere. When I learned to walk, that was our ticket to NYC. More times than I can count, Mom would bring me on a cool train ride to the city, to see beautiful and amazing concerts, museums and Broadway plays. That started my love affair for the arts.
Now, come high school, I was your stereo-typical crazy teenager. Loved to play, loved to laugh. With becoming a teenager, more responsibility and more stress are a daily part of more growing up. You take on that stress and responsibility with some amount of insecurity and self-doubt. Now come the bright stars…I was blessed enough to have two incredible teachers during this difficult period of growth; Frances McGarry and Patricia Summers. Both, if you knew them, you may think, great things come in small packages…however, actually, to me, they are of even greater stature than the beautiful Mt. Rainier, which I can see from my backyard right now…Both had an incredible passion for teaching and personal growth. One, instilling in me the knowledge that with hard work, and with much humor, come great rewards, you can do anything; the other, also instilling in me the knowledge I can do, or be anything I put my mind to, while showing us the value, and beauty of the arts, and the ! power they possess.
After high school, I always tried my best to remember what these two angels taught me. I worked while putting myself through college. My first job out of high school was working in the ER at the hospital my Mom was an RN at. She thought I was crazy, choosing to work in the ER. I thought, that has to be the most difficult place you can work in at the hospital, so, I can be successful there, then I can work anywhere. So true. My first shift…a Friday evening, the fourth of July. Boy, did I EVER learn! In the coming months, I became an EMT and later, a paramedic. I saw many terrifying things over the years, but none more frightening than the moment I thought I died. June 9, 1998. Preparing for my first call of the day. I was driving the ambulance, as I liked to do…as I was a field supervisor, I was permitted to take a vehicle home with me, so yes, I had an ambulance in front of my home…I was still parked out front, while checking my mirrors, I was just turning my head to check my drivers’ side mirror, when I heard this deafening crash, the smell of burning rubber and oil…the last moment I remember was my head hitting the window, and I thought, “I just bought the farm”…first thing I saw, was a huge tree(which was across the street in my neighbors’ front yard)and smoke…I also felt my brothers’ hands(he had passed in ’78)on my shoulders, telling me, “it’s ok, don’t worry, I’ve got you”…the dispatcher said later on when I returned to work, no one, either in dispatch or on the road could believe I radioed dispatch afterwards…I don’t remember it at all…they heard my voice and thought, “Oh, this is REALLY bad”…I had a very serious head injury, spinal fractures, and, all that tempered glass from the driver’s side window? In my eyes and face. Ick. Recovery was scary; and painful. The bad days, I’d try and put my headphones on, play my favorite music and attempt to disappear in my music. Some days, I ! had to force myself to do that. But I did. The neuro doc said he wanted me, and I needed to, stay out for more than 12 weeks. Being as stubborn as I am, I worked even harder, and returned to full duty in 8 weeks. Co-workers, and the doc, were shocked. My headphones and music gave me the strength and will to push harder than I ever dreamed possible, to do what I never thought possible…to bring myself back!

To deprive human beings of the arts, would be unjust and cruel…don’t take away dreams! Nurture and celebrate them!!!  Music continues to be a constant in my life…as well as my family…without it, I would not be where I am today…With an amazing family, and after retiring from EMS(2011), finishing school so I can knock people out legally…I will be working in surgery, putting you to sleep with my top-notch anesthesia skills…time to go to happy nappy land…sweet dreams…
Thank You Forever Fran and Pat! It is you, who indeed help make me who I am!!!

How Art Transforms the Life of Homeless Teen

It’s already a tough time when you’re teen. But imagine that you’re an undocumented teen. Without a home or father around. Helping your mom, who you constantly fight with and taking care of three younger brothers. For Inocente Izucar, a 15-year-old undocumented homeless teen, this was her life. Until her art transformed her life. It’s all captured in the mind-blowing documentary, “Inocente.”