Bringing their stage magic to Walworth, husband and wife American actor Cory English and British actress Sara Alexander, shared with over 50 kids in Wayne County last month.
The vehicle was a musical theatre workshop, offered to 50 lucky children at Sandy Stramonine’s School of Dance in West Walworth.
Cory, who hails originally hails from Walworth, graduated from Wayne Central in the 80s. He is also a former Sandy Stramonine dance student and jumped at the chance for he and Sara to share their talents.
“We wanted to give the students a flavor of what it is like working in a professional musical theatre environment , and also let them work on some material from shows. We called it a musical theatre intensive” said Cory
They began on a Saturday afternoon with actual audition-type interviews, casting and rehearsals, choreography and acting, ending on Friday with a finale for the parents.
On Saturday and Sunday the students worked 4-5 hour a day, but during the week they came in for 2-1/2 hours per day, due to school commitments.
What did they learn?
“We focused on how to root all dialogue/dance in truthful acting. We looked at text and character. We did a lot of improvisation around the characters in the piece,” said Sara. “They began bios for each of the characters.” “We had written a short piece that strung (together) numbers from Chicago and Annie (suitable for different age groups),” added the TV and film actress.
The structure was basically a young dancer fanaticizing about being on Broadway. In the group of students, the youngest was 8 and the oldest was 18, with all ages in-between, including one 16-year old young man from Fairport.
Sara, who has been acting since her teens on British TV and on screen (She had a part in Harry Potter’s The Deathly Hallows, Part 1–under her screen name Eva Alexander) explained her delight with the workshop.
“I love to teach. It’s wonderful to watch young people blossom before your eyes, in confidence and skill. I learn so much when I teach or direct – about people and about myself as a performer. Working intensively gave the group fierce focus and what they acheived in such a very short time was amazing.”
We’re very grateful to Sandy for giving us the opportunity to do it at her studio”, said Sara.
“It was not a polish final performance, it was not meant to be, but each student learned and grew from the process.” said Sandy Stramonine.
Cory was just as thrilled with the outcome. “Having the different ages working alongside each other meant that each age could really learn from the other. And, of course, being back in the studio where I first started was special. No matter at what level each student began, the workshop, each one of them grew, even in that short time, and that was extremely satisfying,” said Cory.
The children who attended learned of the opportunity from a flyer sent out by Sandy to many of her students and former students, due to the limited number of openings (50).
A former Stramanine student, Cathy Hicks Sciarratta (formerly of Marion), who now runs Finger Lakes Ballet Academy in Canandaigua, saw the poster and send several of her students to the workshop. Also a former student who now lives in Syracuse commuted with her daughter and a friend daily, to take the class. Others came from Sandy’s own students.
“These were dance students mostly,” Sandy explained. Many did not have a lot of singing or acting ability before the workshop. A few had some stage backgrounds from their school plays, but it was definitely a stretch professionally for them all,” she added.
Sandy smiled at a memory. “I love to remininse about my students. I remember Cory well from an early age. I knew his parents, and had seen him in a play at school. I said to them, ‘He needs to dance!’ They agreed and he began at about age 12 and continued until age 19. He then left for New York to find his dream.
“I recall a trip to New York, where I took Cory and several students. He looked all around, and turned to me and said, “Sandy, this town has my name on it”! Cory went on to perform on TV and on stage, in such shows as: Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein”, “Chicago” (most recently on Broadway), “The Producers” (on London stage), “Hello, Dolly” (with Carol Channing), and some British and American TV.
“We were so privileged to have Cory and Sara here to work with the students. They had a great sense of professionalism, and really did some incredible work with the kids,” Sandy added.
“We had so much fun doing it, we’d love to offer these types of workshops on a regular basis,” Cory added.
(Editor’s Note: Sara writes a weekly column online for the Times each week, read in online at www.waynetimes.com)