RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Performing on Broadway might seem out of reach, but there’s a program right here in our area helping to shape the next generation of stars. The School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, called SPARC for short, started in 1981.
Today on the SPARC stage, key players for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum held a dress rehearsal. The lead is 17–year-old Steven Martella. He goes to Deep Run High School and dreams of making his love of the performing arts a career.
“It’s such a thrill, and it’s such a rush. It makes me happy.”
Founder Jeri Cutler-Voltz wanted to share that rush and thrill with young people in Richmond. The singer and actress left New York to come back home to start SPARC thirty-three years ago. Her goal was to train them to be triple threats, those who act, sing and dance.
“What’s really neat about the program is that over the years, it’s come to encompass so many more life skills and ways to help kids sort of actualize who they end up becoming, explains SPARC Director of Production, Debra Clinton. “So it started out as something specific but I think the reach is much greater now.”
SPARC moved into its current home on North Hamilton in 2008, and it currently offers classes to kids ages 3 to 18. Live performances get students ready for the bright lights of Broadway if they want to follow that path. Notable alumni include Zak Resnick and Mary Page Nance who are enjoying careers on and off Broadway.
Others who have taken part in this nonprofit program went on to become lawyers, journalists or into other professions where a knack for public speaking and working with others is key. “We have tried to really build a community where people feel comfortable being themselves,” says Clinton. “Also stepping a little outside of the box and meeting other people and doing other things that typically they wouldn’t choose.”
Taking a break from his rehearsal, Martella sings his praises. “I’ve done other theater companies before, and SPARC has taught me more than any of them.”
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs on the SPARC stage tonight through August 3. To learn more about the program and upcoming shows, follow this link.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond