Junior hosts theater speaker series with Redwood Drama

Chloe Wintersteen

Sir Francis Drake High School junior Sierra Stephens recently began a theater speaker series with Redwood drama teacher Erik Berkowitz. Stephens’ first speaker, award winning musical theater composer, lyricist, and performer Drew Gasparini, spoke in room 306 in late April.

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Gasparini shed light on the workings of the theater industry. In his discussion, Gasparini gave advice regarding professionalism, the importance of making connections, and the proper usage of social media for artists, as well as his exposé of living as a struggling artist in New York.

According to Stephens, Gasparini performed his own work sporadically throughout the event by singing and accompanying himself on the piano and guitar.

“Drew’s event most accurately reflected the goals which I set out to achieve when first formulating the idea of the series,” Stephens said. “He is incredibly knowledgeable about his craft, stressed the importance of professionalism in art, and provided both students and parents alike with wonderful advice in a comfortable intimate setting.”

Stephens’ series, which she has entitled “Behind the Scenes: Discovering your path in the world of theater, a speaker series for the young entertainer,” will continue to recruit professional theater participants in the Bay Area to speak about the industry, free of charge to all attendees.

Individual speakers will routinely visit Redwood once a month this coming fall. Though the dates are yet to be announced, Stephens has four speakers lined up, including a professional stage actor, a film actress, a professor in an MFA program, and a recent graduate from Carnegie Mellon University.

Stephens chose the Redwood theater to host her series because she believes the central location of the school and the character of the Redwood student body are most closely aligned with her mission.

“I chose Redwood because Redwood has a strong drama department and is a central location for students all over Marin to come visit,” Stephens said. “Redwood students also have a strong drive towards success and I see a Redwood student taking initiative towards their future by attending.”

Stephens, having been involved in both community and professional theater for over ten years, wished to create an organization in which aspiring performers like herself could easily access advice from professionals in the entertainment industry.

“My mission is to provide young actors and teens with guidance and inspiration through master classes, professional advice from working actors, professors and entrepreneurs in the field,” Stephens said. “I hope to inspire more people to not be afraid to follow their dreams and passions achieved through more knowledge and information and advice about the business.”

Stephens hopes her series will become a more collaborative experience in the future.

“I see this speaker series as a first step in encouraging people to come together and share experiences to learn from each other,” Stephens said. “That is exactly what theater is. Sharing stories and experiences with audiences so you can portray a message, theme, or lesson to the audiences.”