Staging a 'family' reunion School of Performing Arts to hold get-together in Kent
School of Performing Arts to hold get-together in Kent
Published 6:11 pm, Wednesday, July 28, 2010
They'll come from near and far, singing in unison the praises of the rich background in the arts they reaped from their experience at the School of Performing Arts.
On Aug. 8, the former School of Performing Arts (commonly known as SOPA) in New Milford will host a 30th anniversary gala from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Kent Community House on Route 7.
While looking ahead to the reunion, founder Arlene Begelman was able focus on SOPA's success and attributed much of its lofty reputation to fellow teacher and assistant artistic director Barbara Braverman.
"Barbara contributed with her great intelligence, choreography, ideas and masterful teaching," praised Ms. Begelman. "She constantly worried about the students, how we could help them to improve."
"All these years together, I have relied on her judgment and honesty," she added. "Barbara kept me on the right track and is as much a part of SOPA as I was."
The school was under the direction Ms. Begelman and Ms. Braverman, serving students in the Greater New Milford and Danbury areas.
Former faculty, students, parents and supporters are invited to attend.
"This reunion idea started with Jessica Durdock of New Milford, a former SOPA student, an actress extraordinaire," reported Ms. Begelman. "She got the ball rolling with a little mini-reunion last Thanksgiving with 8 or 9 local people, a simple get together."
"At that time, they discussed the fact that no matter how large SOPA grew it always felt like a close-knit family," she explained. "One thing led to another, wanting to find out what happened to many of the students they trained with and how much SOPA meant to them, then and now."
"I am always bumping into someone who feels so strongly we were an important and intrinsic part of their lives. I still get letters from students," Ms. Begelman concluded.
Ms. Durdock, a New Milford High School graduate who raised the level of her considerable talents at SOPA, lavishes praise on Ms. Begelman and Ms. Braverman.
"I look to this reunion as a chance to simply say thank you to Arlene and Barbara," she said. "These two women [have been] beyond artistic assets to the community. They provided the lucky students who get the chance to train with them an opportunity test the limits of their creative and physical expectations."
Ms. Durdock went on from her SOPA training to television acting, a stint with the world-famous Pilobolus dance troupe and, most recently, has acted in and produced several well-received off-Broadway plays.
"They invited us into an elite world of artistic study," she recounted. "At the same time, SOPA was a home away from home. It was safe and exciting there. It was familiar and comforting."
Entertainment will begin at 4 p.m.
Table displays and videos of SOPA performances will be on view, other memorabilia will be exhibited and food will be served throughout the event.
Among SOPA's former teachers who are expected to attend are Ms. Braverman, formerly of the Cleveland Ballet; Robert Maiorano, formerly of the New York City Ballet; Virginia Zellner, who taught ballet at SOPA; Sarah Kate Robbins, who taught theater and TV technique at SOPA; Christine Spizzo, a guest artist for the American Ballet Theatre; Saun Ellis, a guest artist theater and documentary filmmaker; Julie Granieri and Matthew Gallagher, who work in theater.
Other past guest artists who have worked at SOPA include Darci Kistler of the New York City Ballet, Sara Yarbourough, formerly affiliated with the Alvin Ailey; and Mary Wadkins, who is from the theater world.
The school opened in space on Bank Street, first starting with one room and eventually expanding to an entire floor.
SOPA operated simultaneously with the professional theatre company, Connecticut Stage, also run by Ms. Begelman, which lasted 10 years as a cabaret theatre.
While still operating SOPA, Ms. Begelman formed the Stage II Opera Company.
Eventually, she had to move out of the Bank Street space, but became the artistic director of the Connecticut Conservatory in New Milford, where she worked for two years before resigning.
Although SOPA didn't have a specific space out of which to operate for some time, the school remained close to Ms. Begelman's heart.
Ms. Begelman utilized space at the Jewish Community Center in Sherman for SOPA classes from 2000 to 2003 and then found space on West Street.
In 2007, SOPA began an affiliation with FineLine Theatre Arts on Railroad Street in New Milford, where Ms. Begelman is a teacher.
In the years that SOPA was operational, Ms. Begelman and her colleagues managed two main stage dance/theatre/voice productions a year, smaller in-house showcase productions, educational mini-productions and an artistic collective.
People who wish to attend or know the whereabouts of the people still sought are encouraged to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.