Paul Perez, artistic director for Main Street Arts , knows what it means to work as a professional actor. As he moves toward establishing a center for the arts, quite possibly in Mt. Kisco, he's teaching kids that while it can be fun, it is definitely not easy.
As an actor it really is all about what you do, what you experience. You have to ask yourself why do I do this? How should I do this? Perez said inside his office at Yellow Monkey Village in Cross River. Pictures and memorabilia of past students, performers and some of his own productions adorn the walls.
Perez values giving his students the opportunity to fail. It isn't an exercise in cruelty, but a chance to let them share a learning experience and really learn what it means to be a professional actor. They come to him with ideas for productions and fundraisers, and he offers guidance but does not take control away from them.
The biggest thing is allowing them to fail and letting them know it's okay, said Perez. One of the ideals as an actor is that you are always trying.
Perez is searching for a location to consolidate all of Main Street Arts branches under one roof. Yellow Monkey Village has stages, a music store and classrooms, but some classes are held off-site at dance studios and the Lutheran Church of the Resurection in Mt. Kisco. He wants to create an educational facility that can provide instruction, a place for young people to relax and also offer tutoring services. There are three locations being considered, two of which are in Mt. Kisco.
Perez fell in love with acting as a child. His grandmother lived near Broadway and the promise of a show was often the bribe to get him to visit. Sitting up near the rafters, he'd watch the tiny actors far below. He went to school for pre-law, but before graduation the acting bug seized. He's since acted in soap operas and film, and as a member of various theater troupes.
Understanding the business, and learning the art, are his primary goals for the children. He wants them to have fun, but to come away knowing that acting professionally is as arduous as any other profession. Main Street Arts is about learning the skills and studying the artistry.
I want them to leave here and have an absolute love of the craft. I want them to be the people who go to shows. I want them to become involved with community theater, Perez said.
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