Testimonial #16: Margot Knight

Testimonial #16:  Margot Knight , Djerassi Resident Artists Program

The Djerassi Resident Artists Program is internationally recognized as one of the eminent artist residency programs. We strive to provide the best possible residency experience for artists of superior talent from a diverse range of backgrounds and geographical locations.

As stewards of a unique and beautiful property, we also seek to preserve the land and use our facilities wisely and efficiently for maximum benefit to the artists and with the least impact on the environment.

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?

Mr. Carroll was the senior drama teacher at CrosslandHigh School in Camp   Springs, Maryland. I auditioned and got a role in the chorus of Sophocles’ Antigone my sophomore year. The rehearsal process was transformative. We learned about Greek history, culture and poetry. I can still recite my opening lines:  “Oh light of the rising sun, brightest beam that ever shone on Thebes of the seven gates.”

The beam was bright indeed.

How The Arts Transformed My Life…

Well, I for one know that the arts have SAVED my life. Growing up in Harlem in the 70′s wasn’t exactly a picnic and so the chance to attend one of the most revered high schools in New York, The High School of Music & Art, was not only a dream come true but an eye-opening experience. It was my first time being exposed to students from all walks and not just the neighborhood. It truly was the most wonderful experience of my young life. I still have so many friends from M&A – we were and are a very special group. I studied voice and somehow, all these years, always managed (while holding a professional job) to be in band, or a jazz trio, or to coach, or be an inspiration. I perform cabaret in the city and have recently inspired a few old classmates to get back on stage! While live music, especially live jazz, has taken a bit of a beating, there is nothing like being on stage and doing a show. Not just singing at a bar or restaurant – I mean booking a room and giving a show. Rehearsal is therapy. Sending out invites and “save-the-date” cards is so exciting. The anticipation of show time. It’s just the greatest feeling in the world. I perform at one particular venue several times a year and my “following” know what to expect when they get that invite: a show they’ll never forget. It’s my gift to myself as well as to my audience when i hit that first note. I wish there was more time and money to do it more often. Like I said live music is a tough sell these days. But I take what I can get gladly and with such pride.

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,
Van