‘Rising Stars’ move to big stage

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘Rising  Stars’  move to  big stage“The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing and arithmetic … music, dance, painting and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.”

— William Bennett, former Secretary of Education

After four years of providing a venue for young performing artists, many of the cohorts of the “Rising Stars” program are graduating to the main stage of Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society.

The public will have an opportunity to view these burgeoning talents — along side their more seasoned counterparts — in the RMES production of “Newsies: The Broadway Musical,” opening Thursday, Sept. 26, on the Cerro Coso Community College stage.

RMES was formed in 2009 by several alumni of local performing arts programs who saw that state funding for programs that nurtured music, dancing and theater education was diminishing.

For the last decade, hundreds of volunteers have staged high-quality productions to entertain local audiences, and have raised upward of $160,000 for schools in the process.

“Although RMES has contributed significant resources to the performing arts programs in Sierra Sands [Unified School District], it is my personal belief that the most significant contribution is the Rising Stars program,” said “Newsies” director Bill Farris.

Marla Cosner, one of the RMES founders and a local music teacher, started “Rising Stars” to give children ages 7-15 an opportunity to appear on stage.

“The byproduct is that we now have a larger group of young people who have the experience to support larger-scale productions that are intended to have more professional-level performances,” said Farris.

Between school, college, visiting and community theater options, children growing up in the valley during the 1980s and ’90s had numerous opportunities on the stage. In the last two decades, most of those programs began staging fewer and fewer productions or went away all together.

“Onstage performance in musical theater is a wonderful character-building experience,” said Farris. “It’s critical for people to understand the carry-over value these experiences bring to real-life. It gives people an opportunity to gain the self-assurance that comes with standing in front of a large crowd of people to perform — which is a strength that translates to almost any occupation.”

Farris recalled when Burroughs High School started rebuilding its theater program under Sherry Parker, who had taken over after a brief hiatus.

“I remember the first year, you saw all these kids on stage who hadn’t had any previous experience. It was grand to see, but it was really the second year — seeing the significant contrast of what the kids had gained with just one year of experience — that the value of having performing arts in our schools became really clear to me.”

That benefit extends beyond young people, he said.

“I think the real beauty of RMES is that these productions are a win-win-win on every front — the participants win by their experience, which offers them an opportunity to build relationships with the people around them and the enrichment of having performed; the community receives the richness of being entertained and uplifted; and our performing arts programs benefit from the financial contributions that come from ticket sales.”

Farris said that there are still a few opportunities for people interested in volunteering for the production.

For more information contact Jake Gabrillo at jakegabrillo@yahoo.com.

Pictured: Geoffrey Brown (right) is one of many “Rising Stars” appearing in “Newsies" — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-08-23