Boca-Based Society Of Arts And Letters Sets Drama Competition At Crest Theater

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer

A question often heard in movie studio boardrooms and around all sorts of theatrical venues is often a rhetorical one: Where is the next generation of singers and actors coming from?

In its time, the National Society of Arts and Letters has discovered an array of performers who became celebrities, among them, actress Shirley MacLaine, opera singer Jessye Norman and Broadway great Megan Hilty.

Now, the NSAL’s Florida East Coast Chapter, based in Boca Raton, is seeking dramatic actors and operatic singers to compete for their moment in the spotlight.

The group is offering talented locals two opportunities to express their ability. One event, the National Drama Competition, takes place March 9 at the Crest Theater in Delray Beach. The winner will receive a $2,000 first prize and all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the National Competition which will award a $12,000 first prize.

The other contest, the Dorothy Lincoln-Smith competition process, is conducted via video submission.

Final dates to file applications for both contests passed in February. However, the presentations at the Crest Theater March 9 are free and open to the public. They begin in the morning.

Judges for the competition include noted theatre professionals Jeffrey Bruce, Barbara Bradshaw, Sue Ellen Beryl and Gail Garrison.

“NSAL is an amazing organization that champions young performers through scholarships, competitions and mentoring,” said Boca Raton resident Judi Asselta, NSAL East Coast Chapter president. She also chairs the March 9 production and is on the committee for the NSAL Star Makers Awards at Boca West on April 28, which honors emerging artists who won scholarships and competitions throughout the year.

“Annually, we offer a variety of opportunities for our local potential stars to be noticed by acclaimed artists, win monetary awards and advance to national competitions, which have been the springboard to success for many famous performers.”

“We have a tremendous number of talented young actors in South Florida,” said competition co-chair, Joy Banton, of Delray Beach. “This is an exciting opportunity for an aspiring dramatic artist to showcase his or her ability to move an audience at a career-expanding competition.”

Asselta said Jose Luaces, the NSAL Florida East Coast Chapter winner in 2009 in the acting category has gone on to a successful career performing in plays nationwide and on Broadway.

In addition, the local chapter discovered opera singer Nadine Sierra, an NSAL local and national winner, in 2008.

Raised in Fort Lauderdale, Sierra has gone on to global acclaim with innumerable standing ovations at famed performance centers, including La Scala and The Met.

The Boca-based chapter also discovered opera singer, Jeffrey Buchman, national first place winner in 1997 who has become one of the country’s premier operatic directors.

“It was particularly thrilling for us in 2011, when Jeffrey directed Nadine in her premiere performance as Gilda in Rigoletto at the Florida Grand Opera, to rave reviews for both. Now, we are seeking our next discoveries,” noted Asselta.

Operatically trained young performers between the ages of 23-31 are going through their paces in the Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Competition and aspiring actors between ages 18 and 28 have applied for the national drama competition. Asselta said about 30 competitors sign up each year.

The Cultural Advisory Council for the NSAL Florida East Coast Chapter is made up of more than 50 distinguished Florida arts leaders. The local NSAL group covers the area from the Keys to Orlando.

Opportunities for other scholarships are available by visiting www.nsalfloridaeast.org