Sunday, February 18, 2001

Hope, jitters mix at SCPA tryouts

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        By late morning it had been a long day for Mary Davis. She sat outside, all by herself, and listened as the sound of a trumpet filtered through the closed door.

        “It's a little nerve-wracking,” said Ms. Davis as her daughter, Samantha, 13, auditioned behind the door. “If I hear her miss a note ... Well, I hope she gets over it and goes on to do the best she can.”

        It was like that all morning Saturday at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Pendleton.

        Between 60 and 70 students, many with their parents, spent a good part of the morning auditioning for enrollment at the school in the fall.

        A good number, like Mary Davis and Samantha, came from outside the district.

        Samantha is a student at Fayetteville Middle School in Brown County. They made the hour drive to SCPA and arrived at 8:30 a.m. Samantha spent close to three hours auditioning in drama, dance, vocal music and instrument.

        “Good luck,” Principal Jeff Brokamp told the students as they arrived. “Just take a deep breath and go for it.”

        The students audition in seven categories, including dance, music, visual arts, drama, technical theater and creative writing.

        During the course of the year, the school will get 1,700 applications. About 60 percent get to audition and about 250-275 will be accepted. Alumni include actress Sarah Jessica Parker; Justin Jeffre, Drew Lachey and Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees; stage actor Ron Bohmer, and ballet dancer Jay Goodlet.

        “It's like Christmas on audition day,” said Mr. Brokamp, speaking for faculty and staff. “You get to see your gifts. These kids are really gifts to all of us. They're very talented.”

        The students range in age from 13 to 17, and in demeanor from the supremely self-confident to the demure. They come from suburban school districts and the inner city. They drive in from rural counties in Ohio and Indiana. They fly in from afar.

        Kevin and Alison Paradise flew into town with their daughters, Caitlin, 14, and Devon, 12, from Yarmouth, Maine. Gretchen Ventura, an art teacher at St. Francis Seraph in Over-the-Rhine, showed up with five of her students, including Akema Jeter, 14, of the West End, and Adrian Neal, 14, who took the bus in from Westwood.

        Loreal Mason, 16, came in from the city of Mason with her mother, Charlotte Mason.

        Caitlin Paradise was nervous as she waited outside the dance studio. Adrian Neal admitted to a case of the jitters as he waited for a drama audition.

        “It's the waiting,” he said. “I feel it in my stomach.”

        “I'm kind of nervous,” said Loreal. “My grandmother said I had a big mouth, so I should go into acting.”

        Samantha emerged from her audition. She thought she did well.

        “I think I did best in drama and instrument,” she said. “Average in vocal, not so good in dance.”

        Caitlin left the dance studio. “Pretty bad,” she said of her dance audition.

        “No, you didn't,” said her mother. “You're too critical.”

        Loreal said after her drama audition, “I think I did a really good job. I'm 99 percent sure I'm in.”


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