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Talent competition at the Steamer

September 30, 2011

by Anthony Acosta

Suzie Dunn, Director of Creative Arts at Steamer 10 (Anthony Acosta)

A teen talent competition hosted by Creative Arts at the Steamer No. 10 Theater under the direction of Suzie Dunn at the end of next month.

Auditions for the competition take place tonight at 5 p.m at the theater at 500 Western Ave. and run through 9 p.m.   Contestants who want to audition are encouraged to express creativity and originality in their showpieces.

“You can do whatever you want,” Dunn said.  “Whether it’s singing, dancing, poetry, comedy or instrumentals, as long as it’s entertaining, you can do it.”

The competition is open to adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18. A $5 admission fee will be charged for each individual who auditions. Tickets for the show on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. are $12 each.

The top 30 contestants from auditions will be selected to compete in the October talent show where the top three performers will be awarded a cash prize at the event.

Competitors will be evaluated by a  professional panel  of judges including Natasha Wesley, judge for Miss New York Teen USA;  Rebecca Boswell, former actress and life coach; and Dave Rydelnik, an actor. The judges will critique overall presentation, creativity, clarity and ability.

Contestants can register to audition via online by sending an email to You can also send an email if you have any questions or wish to receive additional rules and regulations. Walk-in auditions are welcome.

Another one of Dunn’s major obligations this fall is teaching dance and drama at CAST, which is a performing arts school for boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 18, also located at the Steamer No. 10 theatre.

CAST students and Dunn, warming up before dance class. (Anthony Acosta)

“We learn how to act, dance and sing,” said 9-year-old student Hannah Kanenir.

These dedicated students, including Kanenir, practice a combination of skills pertaining to dance, voice and drama. They’re exposed to various aspects of the theater so that in the future they become triple-threats –  a Broadway term used to describe performers that possess extensive skills and training, allowing them to audition for any role within a full-scale musical, said Dunn.

Students at CAST also learn about stage production, costume design and make-up. They even experiment with film-production where they work with cameras and implement documentaries.

Dunn, who has been running the program for the past three years, is also a certified teacher. With more than 50 stage productions and 15 full-scale musicals on her resume, she’s also a very knowledgeable role model for these aspiring young performers.

Intern Olivia Woodhouse practicing jazz kicks with the students. (Anthony Acosta)

The students at CAST attain a variety of dances including jazz, tap, contemporary and lyrical. They also exercise their creativity when they’re asked to individually invent their own 8-counts, teach them to their peers and eventually incorporate them into a larger routine.

“Anyone can be a choreographer. If you give them the power the routine becomes their own and then there’s so much more meaning behind it,” said Dunn.

On top of choreography, Dunn also teaches her students dance vocabulary and terminology. She also teaches them all about stage presence.

“Show me your stage faces,” Dunn says to the students. “I want to see smiles!”

Musical Director Rebecca Benjamin, Intern Olivia Woodhouse and Director Suzie Dunn (Anthony Acosta)

The musical director of the CAST program, Rebecca Benjamin, is also a certified teacher with an extensive amount of professional experience. She’s taught at various schools including Hoosick Valley High School, Mohanasen, SCCC and RPI. Her role as musical director is to work with the students both in groups and individually to improve their vocal abilities.

“We do vocal warm-ups together, range extension, diction, vowels, breath support and audience clarity. The audience has to be able to understand what they’re singing,” said Benjamin.

As a positive role model to her students, Benjamin also instructs them on how to: behave well, treat others with respect, work well as a team, and practice self-discipline and control.

“There is etiquette to theatre. I teach them to be courteous and how to approach things in a way so that they get a better result,” said Benjamin.

Working alongside the instructors is intern Olivia Woodhouse who has been attending CAST for more than three years. Her role as the intern is to help improve the student’s techniques in both dancing and singing. She’s a very supportive figure in the eyes of the students and works hard to inspire them even further.

“I wouldn’t be coming back so often if I didn’t love it so much, it’s actually really fun,” said Woodhouse.

According to Dunn, one of the most important things CAST has to offer to its students is a

Intern Olivia Woodhouse helping out the students with their stretches (Anthony Acosta)

safe zone where they can take chances and make mistakes without worrying about judgment. Also CAST gives students the chance to meet other children from different school districts. They share similar interests and end up building unbreakable friendships.

“At the end, we’re all pretty much like family,” said Woodhouse.

During the fall of 2011, classes will be held every Tuesday from 5 until 8 p.m. Dance lessons take place from 5 until 6:30 p.m.; acting and voice lessons, 6:30-8 p.m. The 8-week program ends Nov. 8, when the students present everything they’ve learned during a a 7 p.m. showcase  performance at the theater. -30-


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