When Canandaigua native Amber Smith graduated from Keuka College in 2011, she had dreams of the Big Apple.
Forging her own path at the College, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in management, but fleshed out her concentration in theatre and minor in communication studies by investing time acting in campus plays, serving as president of the Arion Players (drama club) and honing leadership skills. For example, she coordinated special events such as an all-arts or improv night for the Arion Players.
When she graduated, there were three potential career options in mind: acting, hip-hop dance or managing her own business.
Now a New York City resident, the dancer/actress/singer has begun to make her mark in choreography, putting her hip-hop dance talents to use in three music videos and now, serving as co-choreographer for the Bristol Valley Theater production of “Rent,” which runs through July 19 in Naples. She is also a cast member.
“In the ensemble, I sing and dance a lot as I play about six different characters minor to the show. Singing and dancing are what I love to do,” said the Canandaigua native.
As a co-choreographer for “Rent,” Smith has choreographed the tango sequence and dance sequence – two of the biggest numbers – with what she calls a “softer side.” Where other versions of the show have portrayed characters dancing with little thought or intent, Smith’s choreography seeks to echo the lyrics and rhythm of those songs in the physical movement, she said.
Audience members may also see elements of hip-hop in the choreography, a nod to Smith’s dance specialty. Her music videos include two for rap artist D’Chrome Foster and one for the rock band dec3. In addition to dance, Smith has sung backup vocals for Foster, and will return to the Big Apple following “Rent” to record vocals for his next album and then choreograph his next music video.
Smith sees great marketability when a performer can sing, act and dance on stage or screen, so she plans to continue choreographing whenever the opportunity arises. Ultimately, however, she would love to utilize her business skills as a manager in the music industry, she said.
“I’d really like to help guide people in developing their entertainment careers,” she said. To that end, Smith believes her Keuka College education prepared her well for success.
She cited faculty members Mark Wenderlich, professor of theatre, and Ann Tuttle, professor of management, for their guidance and encouragement to pursue her dreams, push herself to success and be confident in her decisions. In addition, the “small-town friendliness” that encompasses the campus community has served her well in New York City, where she said people respond positively when she interacts with them in a warm, open way atypical of big-city residents.
“The atmosphere at Keuka College sticks with you and helps you relate to people on different levels,” she described.
If it takes a little while to build up the business side of her career, Smith is not worried. Meanwhile, she stays busy auditioning for roles, taking dance lessons and more on top of her job at a couture children’s boutique inside the Plaza Hotel.
“If someone offers me a part in a show, there’s no way I’d say no,” she explained. “Who’s going to say no when you can sing and dance and do what you love?”
The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy by Oscar Wilde, will be the fall theatrical production at Keuka College.
The play will be staged Thursday- Saturday, Oct. 25-27, at 8 p.m. and Sunday Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Red Barn Theatre.
Directed by Professor of Theatre Mark Wenderlich, who also serves as lighting director, The Importance of Being Earnest offers a hilarious look at fun, games, and dubious ethics among the British upper crust.
Algernon Moncrieff is a slightly shady, but charming gentleman from a wealthy family who has a bad habit of throwing his money away. His close friend is Jack Worthing, a self-made man who acts as a ward to his cousin, Cecily.
Algernon has created an alter ego to help him get out of tight spots brought on by his financial improprieties, and when he learns that Jack has created a false identity of his own—Earnest, a brother living in London whose exploits have earned him no small amount of notoriety— Algernon arrives for a weekend visit in the country posing as the mysterious Earnest. Having heard of Earnest’s misadventures many times over the years, Cecily had developed something of an infatuation with the lovable rogue, and Algernon’s impersonation of him works no small degree of magic on Cecily.
Meanwhile, Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolyn arrives for the weekend, and is startled to discover Jack is also there—except that she knows him as bad-boy Earnest. So just who is in love with whom? How will Lady Bracknell handle the matter of daughter Gwendolyn’s suitors? And what’s the truth about Jack’s mysterious heritage?
Members of the cast include Jacob Banas (Jack Worthing); Logan Ackerley (Algernon Moncrieff); Caleigh Alterio (Gwendolen Fairfax); Katy Standinger (Cecily Cardew); Jenny Tammera (Lady Bracknell) Matthew Snyder (Lane/Rev. Chasuble); Sierra Lynch (Miss Prism); and Elijah Snipes II (Merriman).
Members of the crew include Danica Zielinski (stage manager, light board manager, and scenic designer); Damita Peace (costume designer); Dan Roach (sound designer); Stephen Funk (sound board operator); and Jessamine Qualman, Robert Hernandez, Alicia Brown, and Cheryl Walsh (crew).
The Oct. 27 performance will benefit the cast members’ 2013 trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. All tickets are $7 and will be on sale at the door. Tickets for the other three performances are $4 for Keuka students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and $7 for the general public. Seating is limited.
Keuka College’s fall theater production will be Lanford Wilson’s mystery Book of Days.
The play will be staged Oct. 27-30 in the College’s Red Barn Theatre. The Oct. 27 performance will benefit the cast members’ trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in January.
“It’s a revisit of small-town mid-America with conservative ethics in a crucial life-threatening situation,” said Mark Wenderlich, professor of theatre and director of the production. “It deals with not only black and white, but a lot of shades of gray of truth and how people see things.”
The story revolves around Dublin, a quiet Missouri town with more churches than bars, and a cheese factory at the center of commerce.
While finishing up part of the set design for the Keuka College spring play last semester, Danica Zielinski broke her hand.
The then-freshman pushed ahead, however, eager to finish her set work and fulfill duties as assistant stage manager for Rabbit, Nina Raine’s dark comedy, staged at the Barn, Keuka’s theatrical performance space.
“I have arthritis and was doing splatter-painting when I heard a crack. But I kept going until I finished and went to the doctor after the set was done. It hurt, and sure enough, I was in a brace for about two months,” Zielinski recalled.
Perhaps that sacrifice made news that her set design won a merit award, from the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACT) Region II festival competition, all the more sweet.
“I was ecstatic,” said the Congers resident.
“She’d never designed a set before, which makes it remarkable she received that [award] on her first design,” professor of theatre Mark Wenderlich said, adding that Zielinski auditioned for an acting role as a first-semester freshman and he didn’t pick up on her design talents until he observed her drawing during rehearsals. (more…)