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Enriching Lives Through the Performing Arts

As I’ve shared many times, acting is something I’ve always known I wanted to do. From my earliest days in school – where I was lucky enough to take acting and performing arts classes – to the Taco Bell job I got when I was just 14 so I could pay for my after school acting classes, I’ve always managed to find ways to pursue this love.

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The top image was taken when I did a production of Hotel Paradiso at South Coast Repertory (during which I met my husband). The bottom image was taken when I was performing with the L.A. Mime Company, which I loved!

Unfortunately, many kids today aren’t so lucky. With arts programs being cut from the curriculum in most schools, and the increasing cost of extra curricular training, taking part in performing arts is something out of reach for so many kids.

It’s such a shame … and it’s why I’m so excited about a non-profit some of my friends have started.

I first met Johnny Coppola & Michael Sonntag several years ago when I did a play with their theatre company, Studio C Artists, and we’ve since become great friends. Recently they approached me about their new venture, a non-profit called One World Stage & Screen (OWS&S), which aims to take their acting approach and classes to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. With a focus on at-risk kids and teens, they’ve already used the non-profit to create an acting program at a local middle school, as well as offer an intensive training program for at-risk kids who want to pursue a career in acting.

Knowing both my love of acting and my work with at-risk kids through CASA, they asked me to take part in OWS&S … and of course I said YES! We’ve since put our heads together and have come up with some pretty good ideas on how we can advance their mission. For my part, I have committed to helping them with a fall fundraiser, which will allow them to continue and expand their programming. We’re still in the planning stages, but I wanted to share their story with you … and maybe get you to mark your calendars for something special this Fall!

This week, I sat down with Johnny & Michael to talk about their efforts and give a little preview on some things we have planned…

For more information about One World Stage & Screen, visit their website. If you’re in the L.A. area and looking for a great acting class, check out Studio C!

And stayed tuned here for details on the Fall fundraiser … we’ve got some fun up our sleeves.

PS – In the video, I mentioned a camp and arts program my friend is involved with … here’s a link the the movie that group produces.

12 Comments

  1. I remember seeing you live in Barbra’s Wedding and Murder at the Howard Johnson’s. Both of them so good. Live theatre is so different, so much more personal. Especially at Studio C, OMG! You’re RIGHTTHERE. It’s impossible not to be immersed in the storytelling. And that’s another thing, is black boxes are so special. They’re SO much about the craft, because there’s never room for anything fancy (though the Barbra set was somethin’ else, talk about maximum use of space). I always feel kind of privileged to see black box productions. I think that’s why OWS&S is gonna be really impactful for these kids. It teaches engagement and connection so well in a space like this. Cures for diseases are important, but so is keeping the spirit alive and healthy and giving it something to be passionate about. Fantastic cause, MB. I hope to be able to make it out there. Are you and Stephen looking for dramas or comedies?

  2. Fantastic Vlog today – enjoyed every second of it. Loved hearing your experiences about performing as a young adult and how cathartic taking acting lessons was. I was never brave enough to try a class, but I enjoyed working behind the scenes on many productions in high school & college. The “misfits” comment is so true – no matter what your size, background, or social status, acting allows you to bond with fellow performers and create a family of acceptance. I greatly look forward to the November fundraiser events – the possibility of seeing you and Stephen in a play together makes me fan-girl giddy! And the lunch auction idea … I know how wonderful that would be 🙂 Thank you always for sharing with us Mary Beth – can’t wait for more updates on OWS&S!

  3. As a former special education teacher, a substitute in the public system and the mother of a budding thespian, I can’t thank you enough! We live in a school district with a high percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. There are about 150 students per grade level. Yet the district feels they can no longer afford a choir or drama program. So, we drive our daughter to a neighboring town to participate in the community theatre there. Many children do not have that option.

    I hope your program and ones like it blossom, grow and fill the expanding void.

  4. Andrea W

    I’m really excited about this Mary Berh! My niece has been involved with the Children’s Theater since she was little. She has been in many plays. Like most areas they do not offer the performing arts in their schools. They have one magnet school that offers performing arts but it’s so hard to get in. Fortunately, she has the Children’s Little Theater but even though her parents have paid for most she’s had to work to help pay. She’s 17 and still going strong.
    I think every child/youth should have the opportunity to be involved with the performing arts. I enjoyed this blog and your interview with Johnny & Michael. I think what they are doing is wonderful!

  5. Christine

    How wonderful Mary Beth. This will be a great opportunity for youth to get training. I will keep an eye out for the fall fundraiser.

  6. Oh I love this and the doors this opens for at risk kids. All four of my children, ages 21-11 have been so fortunate that our small town school has an amazing drama program. They have been able to participate in at a very minimal cost to the students with the help of our booster organization and of the parent volunteers working along side the director. I often wonder where they’d be if they didn’t have that outlet in school. Three of them aren’t sports minded and being able to perform has kept them busy and be part of their drama family has given them that extra support through the years and a place to “fit in”.
    I love your stories of your CASA experiences. I am looking into volunteering myself 🙂

  7. Patty Yocom

    Loved your interview and the idea of bringing arts to young people who would probably never have the opportunity to experience a live play. Saw both of your plays and loved them. And something lots of us have been waiting for – you and Stephen doing a play together! Can’t wait to see what play you do. November now seems so far away. Something to really look forward to.

  8. What a great blog and wonderful organization! I love what they are doing for kids! There is so much more to performing than just ‘acting.’ I took classes and did plays when I was younger and they were so fun. Definitely liberating like you said. My kids have performed in many plays and dance performances. It is amazing what does for their self confidence. They are not afraid to get up in front of people and speak. The friends they have made in the process are great and you really do become a family. I think the whole experience of acting, from auditions until the final curtain call, is such a wonderful adventure. Whether one pursues a career in acting, there are so many life skills to be learned from those experiences.
    I can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for November! I think a lunch would be a great fundraiser! Just some other fundraising thoughts.. I don’t know if you could do it, but what about a backstage tour of ‘Days’, or if ‘The Bay’ is taping, you could auction off hanging out with you while you tape? I wish Studio C all the best in their new venture.
    BTW, you look about 12 (not 19) in the Hotel Paradiso production photo. 😉

  9. Great Blog and share. The therapy value of this program….huge. Iv’e used Role Playing when working with at risk youth who have been abused. Great tool for giving clients insight to self and others and creates this emotional catharsis. Some of the best measured results Iv’e ever seen. Im so on board and excited for the vision this program has. If they need help promoting this within Child Welfare, I would love to help. Bravo!!!! Marking Calendar for Nov.

  10. Susan Nolen (Suzzy1969)

    Great blog MaryBeth! This is such a wonderful thing to do and be involved in!…I look forward to your updates on it in the near future.

  11. Fantastic post Mary Beth! I really like the idea of the acting classes for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. It is truly such a great way to help kids who feel like they don’t belong, or who have a hard life, to reach their dreams!

    After watching the video, I really wish I didn’t live on the east coast, because I think the fundraisers that you two had mentioned were great ideas! It would be great to get to go see a play that you and Stephen were in, and to have it help as a fundraiser for such a great cause!

    Thank you for taking the time to post about this, and to give us an inside scoop on yet again, more individuals who enjoy what they do, and are about making lives better!

  12. Congratulations to all involved! This is such a positive initiative to keep children active and inspired. I was lucky to be able to pursue art as a child and have continued it in some form through my life. I know it kept me out of trouble. Great work Mary Beth♥

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