Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spotlight on Tristan Braboy

With his theater background, it’s a natural fit for Tristan Braboy to take on the dramatic role of  Drosselmeyer in Next Generation Ballet’s upcoming production of The Nutcracker, the Great Imperial Ballet.

“I’ve been dancing since I was a little kid,” said Tristan. “I’d always known about [the Patel Conservatory], but I’m in St. Pete, so I didn’t know anyone who went there.”

When Tristan’s longtime dance studio closed, his parents sought out a new place for him to train. The 18-year-old from St. Petersburg joined Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory in his sophomore year of high school.

Now, in his third year at the Conservatory, he was thrilled to be cast as the eccentric uncle who gives Clara the famed Nutcracker doll. 

“I’m honored to be playing this role,” said Tristan, who played the Prince in his first year at the Conservatory.

“Drosselmeyer does all the magic tricks. It’s cool to not just be doing ballet, it’s cool to change it up.”

A senior at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, Tristan has also focused on drama since he was in elementary school, as well as his dance training.

This summer, he was a mentor in the Broadway Theatre Project at the University of South Florida, where he was encouraged by one of the instructors to audition for Pointe Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh. While it’s not official yet, he’s looking at a promising scholarship offer.

He was recently named one of Creative Loafing’s annual 25 and Under, which features the Tampa Bay area’s most promising up and coming artists under the age of 25, and he was the host of the Conservatory’s 2013 Spotlight Awards.

He’s excited about being a part of The Nutcracker. “I think audiences will be very impressed. The quality that goes into this show is unreal. 

The Nutcracker puts people in the holiday spirit. It brings warmth to the season, and brings everyone together.”

You can see Tristan, and many more stars of tomorrow including Hannah Stanford, also named one of Creative Loafing’s 25 and Under, in Next Generation Ballet’s The Nutcracker, the Great Imperial Ballet.

The Nutcracker plays Dec. 7 and 8, 2013 in Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center. For tickets, click here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On camera acting workshop with Ellen Jacoby

By Paige Strott, Patel Conservatory Marketing Assistant

How often do you get the chance to have one-on-one coaching from a leading casting director? Now’s your chance!

The Patel Conservatory is offering a two day workshop with Miami-based casting director Ellen Jacoby on Nov. 9 and 10.

Ellen Jacoby is one of the most in-demand casting directors in the Florida film and television industry. The intensive on-camera workshop will help students in grade 5 through adult develop their on-camera acting techniques. It will also cover such topics as understanding and maneuvering through the film business, and dissecting and comparing copy for auditions. 

Jacoby has worked on feature films such as Ace Ventura, There’s Something About Mary, True Lies and television shows such as Burn Notice, Miami Vice, and CSI Miami.

If you would like to pursue a career in the film business, Jacoby can jumpstart it by offering helpful advice. At the conclusion of the two-day workshop, Jacoby will provide students with valuable recommendations on what their next step should be. Jacoby has employed over 230,000 Florida actors, dancers, and performers throughout the years and we’re giving you a leg up to be next! 

The workshop will be Sat., Nov. 9 and Sun., Nov. 10, 2013 from 3 to 7 p.m. The cost is $200 for both days, or $135 for Saturday only.

For more information, or to register, visit, or call 813-222-1002.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Auditions for Opera Tampa Children's Chorus

Opera Tampa Children's Chorus members in last year's Opera
Tampa production of La Boheme
The Patel Conservatory is hosting auditions for the Opera Tampa Children's Chorus to be part of the cast of Opera Tampa’s production of Carmen!

Auditions for Opera Tampa Children's Chorus
Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
5 p.m.
Rehearsal Hall at the Straz Center

The audition is open to boys with unchanged voices and girls in grades 2-8.

Students who are selected will be part of the distinguished cast of professionals and join them on stage for the fantastic performances of Bizet’s famous dramatic opera, Carmen

Children’s chorus participants will get to work side by side with professional singers, wear ornate costumes and gain experience in a professional show in the amazing Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

The performance dates are March 14, 2014 at 8 p.m. and March 16, 2014 at 2 p.m. Students will need to be available for these dates as well as the required rehearsals. Click here for the full rehearsal schedule. 

For the audition, students will not need to prepare music. They will be asked to vocalize with the piano and read a short musical excerpt to assess their aural and reading skills.

The chosen students must register for the Opera Tampa Children’s Chorus class at the Patel Conservatory. The class will meet Mondays from 5 to 6 p.m. to rehearse for the production. The tuition is $25, and scholarships may be available.

The Opera Tampa Children’s Chorus is a fantastic opportunity for students to enhance their performance skills and get to be part of a professional show, as well as work with opera singers from around the world! 

In addition, students who complete the rehearsal and performance requirements will receive a $50 scholarship towards another Patel Conservatory music class.* 

For more information about Patel Conservatory’s music programs, or to RSVP for the audition, contact Opera Tampa Children’s Chorus Director, Kavanaugh Gillespie at or call 813.222.6452.

*Restrictions may apply.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spotlight planning committee meeting

There will be a planning meeting for anyone interested in helping with the Patel Conservatory's 2014 Spotlight Awards on Wed., Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m.

We need committee chairs and committee members for all areas of the post-show celebration, from decorations to sponsorship.

Last year, the Spotlight Awards raised approximately $17,000 for Patel Conservatory’s education and scholarship programs.

Tuition only covers 65% of the Patel Conservatory’s operating costs, so we rely on donations and fundraising to make up the difference.

Come learn how you can help!

If you would like to get involved, please click here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Experience the original music of The Odyssey

Shaun Hailey calls himself an amateur, yet he is on his eighth show at the Straz Center as sound engineer and his skills in the job are clear.

By day, Hailey is a mortgage underwriter, but he also creates the sound for many Jobsite Theater shows at the Straz. Now, as the sound engineer for the Patel Conservatory Theater production of The Odyssey, he’s created an original music score.

The Odyssy is set in ancient Greece and director Ami Sallee wanted to keep everything, including the music, authentic to the period. This means that Hailey had to work in a new format for the music because during the time Greece did not use the traditional twelve note octave. 

“It was the most difficult undertaking I’ve done, but it's been a fantastic learning experience for me,” said Hailey, who was not alone in the challenge.

Heather Blalock, left, and Parker Wilkson, perform
original music for The Odyssey
Parker Wilkson and Heather Blalock assisted with the music for The Odyssey. Wilkson is a Conservatory student in our Rock School, theater and jazz programs. He plays the keyboards for The Odyssey. He’s used improvisation skills to find the sounds for the play, and has done brilliantly despite only having a week to work on the show. 

Blalock is a professional musician and a student at USF who has worked in tandem with Hailey from the start of the show. During The Odyssey, she plays four instruments, the violin, water phone, tubular bells, and a tin whistle, to accomplish some of the sounds needed for the play. Blalock often works with Hat Trick Productions; this is her first show with the Patel Conservatory and she’s enjoying it.

“I love the diversity in the show and its many layers. It was a challenge but exciting to see the great talent who are all so dedicated to the show,” said Blalock.

This trio has done a fantastic job with the sound and music for The Odyssey and it is just one of many reasons to come see the show! 

The Odyssey continues through Sat., Oct. 19, 2013. All Patel Conservatory students receive 50% off, and student tickets are just $3.50 for groups of ten or more.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A new role for Marina Alcover

Marina Alcover has gone from a vocal and theater student to theater professional.

Alcover started at the Conservatory as a student. After graduating from Blake High School, she received an associate degree in stage management from Florida School of the Arts.  She returns to the Conservatory as the stage manager for the Patel Conservatory Theater production of The Odyssey.

The 21-year-old discusses her transition and why she is loving the production of The Odyssey

When were you first a student at Patel?
I became a Patel student in 2010, I was in the vocal intensive that summer and the following summer. I was unable to be at the Patel during the school year because I attended Blake High School and I was very involved in the theater department there. 

What was it like to transition from a student to a professional in the same environment?
It has been very exciting! I hadn't been to the Conservatory in two years, when I was away at school, so a lot of things had changed. But I knew Ami [Sallee, director of The Odyssey] and I was super excited for the opportunity to work with her! 

What has been the biggest challenge for you and the students during preparations for The Odyssey?
I think the script has definitely been the most challenging for the cast because it is so large. And the text isn't difficult but it is a different way of speaking that they have had to adjust to. Also most cast members are playing up to six different characters, but they have done an excellent job of keeping track of their characters and knowing where they are and when.

What is it like working with such a diversity of ages in the cast?
The diversity in age, and in their theater experience, is really interesting. There are some adults where this is their very first production, and then there are some students who have been doing theater for a while. Yet, everyone respects one another and they all get along wonderfully. It's awesome to see the cast work together and help one another. 

What is your favorite thing about stage managing?
I love everything about stage managing! I love the rehearsal process and watching the actors develop into their characters as well as seeing the design and overall look of the show transform. But if I had to pick, I'd say my favorite is calling the show. It's really great when you call a cue or a difficult sequence of cues just right, and you know the audience is experiencing the show exactly the way the designers and directors intended.

The Odyssey plays this Thursday through Saturday in the TECO Theater.

Tickets start $15. Student prices start at $3.50 for groups of ten or more. For group information, please email

For tickets, call 813-229-7827, click here, or stop by the box office in person.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Master class with Broadway actor Quentin Darrington

Quentin Earl Darrington works with our students during
rehearsal for the summer production of The Little Mermaid Jr

Quentin Earl Darrington has gone from the Straz Center to Broadway and back again.

The actor began his professional career here at the Straz Center in productions at the Jaeb Theater, and worked his way up to perform in the Broadway revival of Ragtime! He’s been acting professionally since he graduated from the University of South Florida, and his credits include the Broadway tours of Memphis: A New Musical, The Lion King and The Color Purple,.

Darrington returns to the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center to lead a two-day master class at the end of the month. He’ll coach students in acting, voice and movement.

Quentin worked with Conservatory students during some of our summer camps and productions. His gift for teaching was truly evident through the students’ appreciative responses to his insights and coaching. We look forward to working with him again!

The master class will be:

Quentin Darrington Master Class
Oct. 26 and 27
3 to 7 p.m.
Open to students in grades five through college
$200 for both days

Students should prepare two contrasting monologues as well as two contrasting songs, all from published plays or musicals.

To register call 813-222-1002, or download a registration form from our website and mail it with payment, or stop by the registrar’s desk in the Chairmen’s Library.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A new kind of Odyssey

This month Patel Conservatory Theater (PCT) students are taking on Homer’s classic Greek myth, The Odyssey.
Odyssey cast members, including Jessica Jacobs, front row, left.

The epic tale has been adapted into a play by Mary Zimmerman and will incorporate original music written by Heather Blalock, with music student Parker Wilkson accompanying. The material is certainly challenging, but the Patel Conservatory students are taking to it brilliantly. 

For PCT student Jessica Jacobs, these past few weeks have been all Odyssey, all the time. While rehearsing for the play, she is also reading The Odyssey by Homer in her AP Literature class at Blake High School. 

The 17-year-old says she “is doing great on tests” because it is easier to remember the many character names and plot events when you’re also working on the show. She has even been able to help her classmates at Blake with pronouncing the character’s names.

Jessica has been performing at Conservatory since fifth grade. Her favorite past productions at the Patel Conservatory were Pirates of Penzance and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Odyssey requires a lot out of the PCT students because most of the students have multiple roles. Director Ami Sallee has been working with the students on acting movement in rehearsals to help them enhance their character development.

Jessica appreciates the movement training because in The Odyssey she plays a much older character, Odysseus’ mother.

“I need to move like an 80-year-old woman when I’m actually 17,” said Jessica.

Sallee’s movement based warm-ups and exercises help Jessica transform into different characters, she said.

Jessica and the entire cast can’t wait for the performances, and are excited to bring new life to this classic tale. 

Tickets are $10 through Sept. 29; and $15 as of Sept. 30. For tickets, call 813-229-7827, click here, or visit our box office in person. 

Guest blog: From NGB to Alvin Ailey

Guest blog by Hannah Barr

Photo by Kathy Schmitt
Hannah trained at the Patel Conservatory for two years. She started in the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet program after school and was accepted the following year as a trainee with Next Generation Ballet. She currently attends Fordham University in New York City and trains at The Ailey School through a unique partnership B.F.A. program.

She shares her experience in a recent letter to our dance department:

Dear Mr. Peter and Ms. Ivonne,

How are you? I just wanted to say hello and let you know what I've been up to in New York!

I’m definitely enjoying Fordham University and Alvin Ailey. The studios are breathtaking and it is so neat to be able to share the space with “famous” dancers.

Cedar Lake was rehearsing at Ailey a couple of weeks ago and an ex-ABT principal often takes one of my ballet classes!

My teachers are fabulous. One of my ballet teachers, Mr. Peter O’Brien, is from the Royal Ballet. He is also the boy in which the Billy Elliot story is based upon. I thought that you might find that interesting!

I just had my first audition at Ailey for the two freshmen repertory pieces, and I was very excited to get into both pieces. The first choreographer I began working with, Mr. Pedro Ruiz, is from Cuba. ...The other choreographer, Hope Boykin, is a principal member of the Ailey company. We begin rehearsals with her tomorrow because the company is just getting back from their tour. For her audition, we actually had to Skype her in Brazil!

Fordham is literally a block away from Lincoln Center, and I have been taking advantage of the student ticket prices to see NYCB. Swan Lake was absolutely amazing. I was just able to get a “standing room only” ticket, but it definitely was well worth it.

Last weekend I saw “Balanchine Black and White.” And guess who was performing? Abi and Jonathan Stafford [Guest artists in Next Generation Ballet’s 2010 production of The Nutcracker.]! They were unbelievable. I think I’d have to say one of my favorites was Duo Concerto with Megan Fairchild and Jared Angle. The entire show left me blown away and inspired. :)

Speaking of Lincoln Center, I ran into Gabby Schiefer [former student of Next Generation Ballet] the other day. I asked her if she was in heaven at SAB [School of American Ballet] and she said yes. :)

I love being in New York, but I miss my Next Generation family a lot. I am so thankful that I was able to train at NGB. It seems as though a lot of people have heard of NGB up here (they know Kemper Cassada, Hannah Bettes, etc.). I feel honored to be able to say that is where I am from!

Hope you are all  doing well,
Hannah Barr

Congratulations to Hannah on her success and thanks for sharing!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Noted tenor shares his expertise with vocal arts students

Paul Diaz-Cobo, far right, did a master class for Patel Conservatory choir

Noted tenor Paul Diaz-Cobo recently brought his talents, insight and wit to our Junior Choir class.

Diaz-Cobo, a well-known opera singer whose credits include the Merry Widow, Faust, La Traviata, La Boheme and more, visited the Patel Conservatory’s Junior Choir class last week. The master class provided the students the opportunity to work with a professional classical singer.

Accompanied by the Conservatory’s jazz quartet pianist Parker Wilkson, Diaz-Cobo performed for the students, then offered demonstrations of proper singing techniques.

“Mr. Diaz-Cobo was very funny and provided some great insight into singing, breathing, and being confident on stage,” said Junior Choir instructor Kavanaugh Gillespie.

"It was another wonderful opportunity where our students get to work with a current star in the business."

You can check out our Junior Choir in the Conservatory’s upcoming Vocal and Instrumental Fall Concert on Oct. 22.

Wilkson, whose professional experience includes accompanying for Jobsite Theater and performing at the Gasparilla Music Festival, also accompanied Diaz-Cobo in a concert last weekend. The young pianist is quickly growing his resume of professional accomplishments. He'll perform at the 

You can see Wilkson perform when he accompanies the upcoming Patel Conservatory Theater production of A Little Princess and perform in the Jazz Jamm on Dec. 6.

For tickets to more information or tickets to Patel Conservatory’s upcoming performances, please click here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Conservatory student lands role in Julie Taymor's Midsummer

Congratulations to former Patel Conservatory student Jon Viktor Corpuz who scored a role in Julie Taymor’s off Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Jon Viktor Corpuz
Taymor is most well known for directing the Tony Award winning Broadway production of The Lion King, as well as the Academy Award winning film Frida.

Taymor is giving Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream a new twist, says Corpuz.

“She’s a visionary...the way she’s [directing Midsummer] is very fresh and original,” said Corpuz. “I love watching her work.”

Corpuz, 16, is a native of Tampa who got his start in theater at the Patel Conservatory.

“My first play was at Patel. I was 8 years old, I didn’t know anything about theater,” said Corpuz, who was so upset at the time that he didn’t get the role of his choice as a snake, but instead, ended up getting the lead.

What started as something fun to do turned into his passion. He went on to take various classes at the Conservatory and performed in PCYT’s early productions of Godspell and The Music Man Jr.

He attended Orange Grove Middle School and Blake High School, both performing arts magnet schools, and became active in community theater.

Prior to his sophomore year, he and his mom went to New York City for the summer so he could take classes and research the theater industry.

“We were just testing it out to see what opportunities were available,” said Corpuz.

He auditioned and got in to the Professional Performing Arts School in New York, and now he’s living the dream pursuing his passion.

“I never in a million years thought I’d be here...I feel lucky and I’m enjoying the ride, and taking it all as a learning experience,” he said.

Corpuz, bottom row, second from left, in the Patel
Conservatory's 2007 production of The Music Man Jr.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s well known cast includes David Harewood, of Homeland, and Kathryn Hunter, who played Mrs. Figg in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

“I’ve been watching some of these actors since I was a little kid, so the fact that I’m in the same room with them and rehearsing with them is like, ‘Wow. How did this happen?’” said Corpuz.

Corpuz plays a Rude Elemental, Taymor’s spin on the Shakespearean fairies.

“We can be water or trees, or anything that adds to the ambience of this mystical world,” said Corpuz.

The production will also feature original music from Oscar winning composer and frequent Taymor collaborator Elliot Goldenthal.

The show is set to open in early November.

“I couldn’t be where I am now without the Patel Conservatory. That’s what sparked my love for this,” said Corpuz. “Being part of a theater that’s so professional and was the ultimate learning experience.”