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Meet teen comic artist Emma Capps
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Chapel-Chronicles-Cover.jpgWe know from your YSI submissions that a lot of you love to draw, paint, sketch, and just generally get your feelings and ideas onto paper in graphic form. Many of you have even talked about the mangas and comic books you've created. 15-year-old Emma Capps loves to write and draw comics too, and her works of art have appeared in national magazines. Her latest project, "The Chapel Chronicles," is a self-published collection of comics starring a smart (and smart-alecky) red-headed 11-year-old girl named Chapel, who often as not gets a bit lost in the world of her own vivid imagination while pursuing various adventures, from a battle of board games with her babysitter to impersonating Lady Gaga.

We recently chatted with Emma about Chapel, and her life as a young artist and writer.

IML: What's your creative process? How do you go from an empty white sheet of paper to a completed Chapel comic?

Emma: First, I brainstorm my idea. I'll try to find something I've observed or witnessed recently to use as a jumping-off point. Once I have the concept, I'll do a quick "thumbnail sketch," or a sketch that's small enough to be the size of my thumb, to block out the dialogue and what happens in the strip. Then I'll sketch the panels and ink them onto tracing paper. Once I have that, I scan the inks into the computer. I arrange, color, and letter the strip in Photoshop. Then I write some author's commentary and put it up on the site for my readers to enjoy.

IML: What's behind the decision to make Chapel the only visible human character? You have a lot of other people talking, but we never see them.

Emma: For now, I want the strip to focus mostly on Chapel's world through her perspective and highlight the hilarious and funny moments of what it means to be a preteen and teen. Chapel has other people she interacts with, of course, like her parents, her brother, and her nemesis, Fred. I have shown Chapel's family in the background of a couple strips in small paintings on the walls. Sometime in the future, I may include other characters in the strip.

IML: Chapel spends a lot of time living in a world of her own thoughts and imagination. Are you like that?

Emma-Capps.jpgEmma: I would say I have flights of fancy quite a bit...I like to think about things I've done and things that could happen. Of course, this helps me quite a bit in dreaming up new Chapel comics! For some Chapel strips, I do draw directly from my own life, but I try to always make the comics very universally appealing. I only ever use something that's happened in my own life if I think it's something everyone can relate to. Chapel and I are similar in some ways, but we're also different in a lot of ways, too. For example, I don't really like to dress up or listen to Lady Gaga, whereas Chapel does. I'd say Chapel's a lot more competitive and courageous than I am, and I actually admire how much self-esteem she has to wear crazy outfits all the time! I don't think I'd be brave enough to wear a Lady Gaga dress to a wedding, that's for sure, and I think it's great that Chapel's confident enough to go ahead with it!

IML: Chapel seems to be an only child. Do you have any siblings?

Emma: Actually, Chapel isn't an only child. She has an older brother named Barnaby, but he hasn't come into the strip yet because he's currently away at college. I, however, am an only child. I'm not really sure if being an only child has shaped my personality very much. I'm certainly really close with my parents and I'm also a very independent person, but I don't really believe that having siblings would've changed any of those things about me. I'm certainly glad I have enough space for my various art projects, but I actually LOVE kids and sometimes wish I could've had a younger sister.

IML: A lot of tweens draw comics, but you took yours a few steps further. Why make comics to publish, rather than just for yourself or for friends?

Emma: I make my comics to make people smile, and by publishing them, I can make more people happy outside of my small circle of friends. I love it whenever someone from another state or another country comments on my webcomics saying my work has made them smile or laugh. That's the most precious thing in the world to me. If I can spread my work to more people via publishing, and because of that brighten more people's days with my comics, then that's what I'd like to do.

IML: Any advice for our IML'ers who like to write or draw?

Emma: My advice would be to draw and write every day! Don't worry too much about comparing yourself to others - a trap which, I'm sad to say, is really easy to fall into - but instead create something that makes you happy. If you keep creating things that personally make you happy and proud, other people will soon appreciate that and share in it as well!

IML: What's up next for you, and for Chapel?

Emma: In the short-term, this April I'm going to be exhibiting at a comic convention called MoCCA Fest (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) in New York City, and debuting a brand-new book of Season 2 of my Chapel webcomics. I'm really excited to go, and I hope lots of my readers can make it out to say hi! In the long-term, I definitely want to continue doing Chapel webcomics for at least another year or two. I also want to do some graphic novels, which would be very different from Chapel in both style and tone. I'm going to be working on one this summer! I've already got most of the plot planned out and a good majority of the characters designed. I'd also like to expand my line of Chapel greeting cards and gifts. My most farfetched dream would be to one day have Chapel comics, greeting cards, and gifts in stores nationwide! If that were to happen, it would be the most amazing thing in the world for me.

IML: Thanks for talking to us, and good luck!

To check out Emma's work, check out www.chapelchronicles.com. Also, enjoy this fun peek at how Emma makes one of her Chapel greeting cards:



Meet tween comedian Zach Rosenfeld
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What's your favorite after school activity? Soccer? Gymnastics? Hanging out at the park? How about...stand-up comedy?

IMG_6533.JPGWe recently got a chance to talk to Zach Rosenfeld, a 13-year old from Brooklyn, NY who spends a lot of his free time on a stage telling jokes. Thanks to a program called Kids 'N Comedy, Zach is a real comedian who gets to crack up real audiences at Manhattan's Gotham Comedy Club. Here's our conversation with Zach:

IML: Tell us a little bit about Kids 'N Comedy and how you got involved with it!


Zach: Kids 'N Comedy is basically a group of kids who just want to get together and be funny. This is really just kids who want something good to do with their time, and it's really fun. When I was younger, I got interested in it because we went to one of their shows, and I decided to get involved. Normally, they wouldn't take anyone under eleven, but I was the exception. I was nine. I started out with the classes, which are weekly. Then after two or three classes, I moved up to the workshops, and then I finally moved up to the club shows. They used to have the shows monthly, and now they happen every two weeks.

IML: How do you write your comedy material? Do things just pop into your head during the day, or do you set aside time specifically to write jokes?

Zach: I normally sit down and say, "Okay, I need to get to work, because I want this to be good." Then I think of funny things in my life or things that have happened to me, and then I turn those into jokes, which are sometimes self-deprecating. And that ends up becoming about a five-to-seven minute routine.

IML: Are your family members funny too?

Zach: My mother is very funny, and I get my wit from her. She was always kind of quiet with her humor, so I become more of a spokesperson than she ever was.  My father is witty at times, but not as much as my mom. And my little brother is interested in doing this in the future, and I also did a routine about him once.

IML: Did your parents encourage you towards comedy, or did it mostly come from you?

Zach: I would say it was mostly me. Because I just went to one of these shows and I said, "Hey, everyone always calls me funny, but I've never done something like this. Maybe I can be funny like this, too." So I decided to try my best at doing something on a stage. And I've come to love the microphone, and just being on the stage and having the attention. It's just really great.

IML: Once you started taking the comedy classes, how long was it before you got on stage in front of an audience?

Zach: They have about nine weeks of practices and coming up with stuff. That eventually leads to a show where you can invite your friends and family. And now I do the monthly show, and the public is allowed to come.

IML: What was it like, the first time you stepped out into the spotlight?

Zach: I was sorta nervous. But the way I see it is...for the first three seconds you're hyper nervous, and you're tapping your foot and thinking, "When's this gonna happen? Is he gonna call me on now?" And you're pacing. And then you get on the stage. And you know your material...and even if you don't know it that well, you just get into it, and you have fun with the audience. Their laughter means a lot to you, because it shows that what you've done really helps people enjoy what's going on. I normally laugh at my own jokes...or at the reactions to my jokes.

IML: One of your stand-up routines is about your experiences with dyslexia. Why do you think audiences respond to these jokes?

Zach: People respond when you make fun of yourself. Because everyone has problems. Everyone has something that they're hiding. And for someone to go up on stage and just completely put himself out there, and give funny stories about it...they like that because it shows personality and it shows that you're not afraid to go up there and tell people who you really are and get them to like you.

IML: Does comedy help you deal with the challenges of living with dyslexia?

Zach: Well, at this point, I have what they call "compensated dyslexia." I'll always have dyslexia, but it's basically been fixed. I got a tutor, and I had been working for about four years, and I can finally say that I've become a compensated dyslexic. My stand-up routine...it didn't so much help with the dyslexia, but from the reactions of the crowd you can tell that everyone else also has problems, and they're laughing with you. It's encouraging.

IML: What was school like for you before you found ways to work through your learning disability?

Zach: In my school, they started giving pressured homework around second grade. They had weekly tests of spelling, and you had to recite a poem that you had memorized. And it was very challenging. I had to work with my mom for hours, and this was before people knew I was a dyslexic. It took up a lot of my time, but I was very confident, and I kept pushing forward. In third grade, my parents had me tested, and I was positive for dyslexia. I got a tutor and she was just amazing. I still go to her once a week. She's very funny, we joke around a lot when we do our sessions and it's just spectacular. I found ways to compensate using her techniques, and eventually it just came naturally.

IML: How has being a comedian affected your friendships at school?

Zach: It's interesting that you ask that. Recently, all my friends have been going around and asking about my routine, and it's sort of exciting. Because you know that you have a skill that most people would say they have...the ability to go onstage, speak in public and be funny on top of that. Some people expect knock-knock jokes and short one-liners, but that isn't the way I do my comedy. I would think that people would like this attention... it's a unique skill, to be able to do stand-up.

IML: Is this purely a hobby for you, or do you want to pursue comedy as a career?

Zach: Like most people, I have dreams. I think it would be great to be a professional stand-up comedian. But it is definitely a hobby at this point.

IML: Have you faced different types of crowds? How important is the support of the audience?

Zach: Personally, I like the crowd's support. But there are always days when it won't be a good crowd. You can't make your routine on what the crowd is doing. You just have to focus on having fun with yourself.

IML: Do you enjoy doing new material, or do you usually like to do tested stuff that you know is going to get a laugh?

Zach: Recently I've been falling back on dyslexia a bit. I'm taking a long break from doing stand-up because of my bar mitzvah in May. So, I'm taking a break until September but I've decided there are no more excuses and I have to get something new out there.

IML: Will you have a serious bar mitzvah, or a funny one?

Zach: I plan for it to be funny.

IML: Are there any comics out there who you really respect, or want to be like?

Zach: Just like every other Jewish comedian, I idolize Adam Sandler. I also love Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld...they're all great.

IMG_3146.JPGIML: What advice would you give someone your age who dreams of being a comedian or entertainer?

Zach: I would say, just do what you're happy with. Just do what you like or love, and if you're gonna do it, do your best, and don't be afraid of making a fool out of yourself, because that's just part of the comedy. And I've done that once or twice.  Also, you may not have the funniest life, but if there's someone around you who has something funny going on with them, do not be afraid to use peers, your parents, or siblings in your jokes, because it's just hysterical to see the reactions.

IML: Thanks for talking with us Zach, and good luck with your bar mitzvah and your stand-up!

Zach:
  Thank you so much!

For more on Kids 'N Comedy and to watch some videos that include Zach's performances, check out www.kidsncomedy.com.



Beyond the Big Concert: "Apassionata" and other unique happenings this summer
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What's on your entertainment calendar for the summer? Got tickets to something huge and ultra-exciting? 'Tis the season for big concerts and this year should be no exception, with the Bieb going on tour as well as One Direction and Big Time Rush, plus lots of multi-artist festivals and state-fair headliners. However, look a little harder and you'll see there's more than music coming to your city this summer...happenings that might speak to your special interests, expose you to new things, and be the perfect outing for everyone in your family to share together. Want a For Instance? Here's a great one:

Apassionata_PianoDance1.jpg"Apassionata" is a live equestrian show that's finally arrived in North America after being a hit in Europe for nearly a decade. IML was lucky to have a chance to check this out recently when it came to the NYC area. If "live equestrian show" sounds vague and confusing to you, picture more than 40 horses of 13 different breeds -- everything from enormous Friesians to adorable little Shetland ponies -- and their riders performing tricks,Apassionata_Stunt3.jpg dances, and powerful displays of the bond between humans and these incredible animals. The music, screen projections, non-stop energy, and varying themes of each performance made this a truly theatrical event, but like nothing we'd ever seen before. There's something about these horses that really grabbed our hearts, and as we looked around at other audience members of all ages, it seemed like everyone else felt the same way. For more information about Apassionata, visit www.apassionata.com.

We nosed around and found some other ideas for great, family-friendly events you might not have thought of:

Cirque du Soleil. These stunning shows combine acrobatics, dance, theatrics, and imaginative visuals -- definitely not your old-school circus. Many of the different Cirque du Soleil productions are on tour at the moment, such as "Michael Jackson: The Immortal," "Quidam," and "Totem." Check out the details at www.cirquedusoleil.com.

"How To Train Your Dragon" Live. Based on the hit animated film from DreamWorks, this is bound to be way off the Coolness Scale. Gigantic animatronic dragons. Special effects. Stunts. Yeah, we'll be there! www.howtotrainyourdragon.com.  

Theatre, theatre, and more theatre. Crack open your local paper and you're bound to see lots of great musicals on stage near you, performed by members of your community or a touring production, or even a youth theatre group. Take a chance and break out of your movie rut; chances are, these show tickets are not much more expensive than the multiplex.

Music, music, music. Well yeah, it's much more exciting to see a Gigantic Pop Star perform in the flesh. But there is so much live music being performed in the summer -- in your town park, at street festivals, during local fairs. It may not be anyone you've heard of, but could be equally as awesome (you could always say you "discovered" them before anyone else did) and best of all, most of these events are free.

One of our favorite things about summer is the chance to try new things and create memories...going out of the box for entertainment is a great way to do that! Remember that if tickets to something seem unaffordable, ask a parent to help you search the Internet for special coupons or deals.

We'll leave you with this video trailer from "Apassionata"!

 
Magic, the art of astonishment, and the Amazing Max
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max 0092_prv.jpgWhen was the last time you saw a magician perform live, in front of you? Someone's birthday party maybe, or at a fair? Did it wow you, or did you figure out all the tricks in your head? Did you feel astonished by what you saw, or possibly even make you think, I want to try that?

Recently, we saw an awesome and hilarious live magic show called "The Amazing Max and the Box of Interesting Things," and it struck us how this area of performing may not be on most tweens' radar. Not only does it have the power to really entertain people, but it can also be super-fun and confidence-boosting. We asked The Amazing Max to tell us more about why he loves to do magic, and why it's something you might want to check out.

IML: Hi Max! We totally loved your show. Can you tell us how you first got started doing magic?

The Amazing Max: Most magicians will tell you that they got the magic bug when they were a kid. That's pretty much the same with me, but it was also in my family. When my dad was growing up, he did magic; my grandfather owned a hardware store and actually made him magic tricks out of wood and stuff in the shop! Then when I was growing up, there was a brick and mortar magic shop -- you don't really see any of those anymore, everybody buys stuff online these days -- and my dad would take me in. The owner, Al, would show me magic tricks. Then we'd always bring one home, so eventually I had this collection of magic stuff.

IML: What's your favorite thing about performing magic?

The Amazing Max: Well, it feels great to get applause. Any performer will tell you that! But the truth is, for me it's not so much about the applause as it is about making people laugh, and the opposite of that would be, making people speechless. Getting to truly astonish people and leave them with wonder. I remember when I was a kid, watching a magician perform at a birthday party, and the feeling I had when I saw him take a 15-inch knitting needle and stick it through a clear balloon. I was thinking, "That's not possible, but here I am watching it happen!" And now I do that trick occasionally because it brings me back to that feeling of pure astonishment. Being able to do that is incredibly gratifying. Plus, making people laugh is one of the best feelings in the world!

IML: That's a good point -- it's not often you get to really leave people astonished. What would you say are the biggest myths and stereotypes out there about magicians?

The Amazing Max: I think that there's sometimes a myth that magicians are weird and creepy. On TV, the biggest magicians are David Blaine and Chris Angel -- they're the most visible. They both have very serious stage personas. So maybe there's a misconception that magic has to be serious and about fooling people. But it can also be upbeat and fun and funny!

IML: If someone wants to learn how to do magic, where should they start?

The Amazing Max: I do see afterschool programs in and around Manhattan, where I live, and I hope there are more in other places. There are magic camps, too. But you don't really need that in order to learn magic. When I was in elementary and middle school, I would hide out in the library and find every book they had on magic. I never found a shortage -- I would always find a book with names like "Fool Your Friends With These Tricks" or something. When people tell me they want to learn a trick and ask me to teach them one, I tell them to go looking in the library. That's how I started! There are great DVD's and online videos too. I actually have my own DVD coming out that teaches kids magic tricks they can do at home. It's called "The Amazing Max's Magic In Minutes," and it's all tricks with really simple things they can find around the house.

IML: What do you think kids would be surprised to know about learning magic?

The Amazing Max: That it's easier than they think. If you really look for it, learning magic is so readily available. Especially with online videos and books that are out there. People see a magic show and think, "I could never do that!" But in reality, it's like riding a bike, and if you practice and practice you get better. At the same time, it is a performance art. You have to get up and perform for people and get responses out of them. Fool people, have fun, make them laugh! You need to want to do that.

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a show?

The Amazing Max: I was doing a magic show once where I had a kid sitting in the front row, and he was laughing so hard he started crying. And then he was laughing so hard he vomited into his own lap! And you know what? He just kept on laughing. His mom simply wiped him down, and he never left the show! I've also had kids pee (and do worse) in their pants because they're laughing hysterically.

IML: Does it throw you when that stuff happens?

The Amazing Max: You know, I do so much improvisation that I actually thrive off of that kind of thing. Even when kids heckle me, or when things go differently than I planned. I actually strive for moments like that. It keeps me on my toes and I like that!

IML: Thanks for sharing some of your "magic" with us!

The Amazing Max:
You're so welcome!

If you're in the New York City area, you can check out "The Amazing Max and the Box of Interesting Things" at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC) Theater on Saturdays and Sundays at 4:30pm. For more information, visit www.theamazingmax.com.


Meet tween musical theatre star Josie Carr-Harris
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Thumbnail image for Изображение 991.jpgImagine having a successful professional career singing, acting, and dancing on stages from the U.S. all the way to Russia...when you are just 11 years old! That's what it's like to be Josie Carr-Harris, who is half-Russian and half-Canadian, and all the way talented. A couple of her YouTube singing videos caught the attention of an American TV producer, and Josie recently appeared on Lifetime's "Seriously Talented Kids" with Heidi Klum, so Josie seems like someone to watch.

We thought it was cool to chat with a tween who's not only gifted with an astonishing singing voice, but also has such an interesting range of experiences under her belt. 

IML: Tell us a little about how you got started performing. How old were you? When did you know it was something you wanted to pursue seriously?

Josie: In my first performance, I had a very small part in a ballet, Sleeping Beauty, staged by my ballet school in Toronto. I was 4, I guess. The next year I had a bigger part, and a few years later, I received my first award at a Film and Arts Festival in Sochi, Russia.  But it was probably at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Los Angeles two years ago when I met so many talented kids from around the world that I really decided that performing (singing and acting) was something that I was going to start working at really seriously.

IML: What do you like about performing opera?

Josie: Singing in a classical style takes much more work and training than pop music and I enjoy working at my singing. It is also really great to be able to act through singing, like in musicals, and maybe musicals are more fun, but opera is so much, more classy for me.

IML: Most pre-teens don't know much about opera, or just think it's boring stuff for old people. What would you like other kids to know about this art form?

Josie: In Russia they have really great cartoons based on operas, and I know them better than real operas. My dad showed me some amazing parts of operas from American cartoons too. Yes, really, "Tom and Jerry" and Woody the Woodpecker singing real opera! (that you can find on YouTube) and they are really fun.  Kids would not think of them as boring.

IML: Do you have a favorite role that you've played?

Josie: I played a spoiled and fussy blonde girl in the movie "Rorrim Bo and the Magic Goblet", a Russian feature to be released later this year. It is so much fun playing a character that says and does everything that you can't get away with in real life. At least not with my parents!

IML: What was the most challenging role you've had?

Josie: My most challenging role is "Young Luiza" in the musical "Zorro". First of all it is a huge production and we have sold-out audiences eight times a week in a 2000 person theater. The rehearsals were in August and September, and I had to learn flamenco dancing, and the flamenco style of singing "cante jondo."  Then for the rehearsals, (and for the previews and then the premiere), I was there every day and played every performance. After the premiere, three other girls started to share this role with me, but with eight performances a week and extra matinees over holidays, even four of us is not enough.  

IML: You perform a lot in Russia -- do you live there? Or just spend a lot of time there because of your family?

Josie: Right now I am living in Moscow and go to the Moscow Musical Theater School for Young Actors, as well as regular Russian school. Moscow is a great place to study singing and theater. But I have had to go to the US twice in the last two months, and Moscow is a little far away for that!

IML: What have you noticed about different cultures and audiences from spending time in different countries?

Josie: I have been on stage or on TV shows in Russia and Central Europe, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. People and audiences are a little different everywhere you go, but I think it's possible to "connect" with any audience. When I sing opera it is usually in a language that the audience doesn't understand, but when you connect with the audience it's really a great feeling.

IML: Thanks, Josie, and good luck with everything!

Josie:
Thanks!

Take a look at this video of Josie performing in an opera production. Okay, so you have no idea what she's saying...but it's fun to figure it out based on the beautiful singing and her body language.






Meet tween dancer Jade Chynoweth
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jade.jpgJade Chynoweth, age 11, is a big fan of TV dance shows like "So You Think You Can Dance." Maybe that's because she's spent a lot of time in the past few months actually dancing with choreographers from those shows, like Mia Michaels, Tyce Diorio, and Wade Robson. Jade was chosen to be an "Elite Protégé" with The PULSE On Tour, a traveling dance workshop featuring the top choreographers and instructors in the industry. In other words, this girl most definitely CAN dance!

As you probably know by now, we love talking to tweens who are doing something extra-cool, and Jade is no exception. Her talent and commitment are truly inspiring, and we're glad we got to meet her on her way to a very bright future.

IML: Jade, can you tell us about how you first got started in dance?

Jade: I started dancing when I was 2 1/2. My aunt owned a dance studio, and I took ballet and jazz classes there. My mom was a teacher back then, and she was really the one who got me interested in dance.

IML: When did you know that you wanted to be more serious about it?

Jade: When I was about 9 years old, I pretty much decided that this was what I wanted to do when I was older.

IML: What do you love so much about it?

Jade: I really like acting out characters in dances, and I like the adrenalin of going on stage and performing in front of people.

IML: How much time do you spend taking classes and training and all that?

Jade: I go to school from 8:30 to 3:40. Then after that, I go to dance every day until 9pm.

IML: Wow! How do you have time to do schoolwork?

Jade: I do my schoolwork after dance, and I stay up a little later!

IML: You do a lot of dance styles. Do different styles make you feel different things when you're doing them?

Jade: Yes, definitely. Even different styles of hip-hop or jazz or contemporary make me feel different things. I dance what I feel. Hip-hop's my favorite, just because I like to get down, I like that hard-hitting grungy kind of stuff. And the characters in the songs and dances are really fun!

IML: What are your favorite music artists, or a particular song you like dancing to these days?

Jade: There's this one song that just came out, "Jar of Hearts," by Christina Perri. Sometimes I just feel more emotional and inspired when I listen to that kind of music. But I also like fast songs that I can dance hip-hop to.

IML: You participate in a lot dance competitions. Do you choreograph your own routines?

Jade: The past couple of years, my solos have been choreographed by Gev Manoukian from "So You Think You Can Dance." He's a really cool guy, he teaches me all my tricks!

IML: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a Elite Protégé with The PULSE.

Jade: The PULSE has come to Las Vegas every year and we go there as a studio, and we've had the chance to learn from amazing different choreographers and different styles. They gave a lot of different scholarships out. They travel all around the world. To get chosen as Protégé, you take all the classes and the teachers choose Protégés based on people who really connect to the dance or get the moves but still have style. They also give normal scholarships out to people who really try hard and are improving. When I got Protégé, I got to go to New York, and try out for Elite Protégé. It gives you free tuition to the PULSE convention in each city. I've gone to seven of the cities so far, and I assist on stage or go in front so people can watch.

IML: What have you gotten out of it so far?

Jade: I've learned more about being a better dancer and understanding the dance, and my body and my moves. I think along the way I've also learned leadership and how to be a better person.

IML: Are there other dancers as young as you?

Jade: No, I'm the youngest! But it's cool, because I've learned so much from everyone. And as people say, kids are like sponges and they soak in all this information. I think that's true, because even though I'm so young, I try to understand the moves. I try to dance mature and still have fun, and I look up to all the older people that also got Elite Protégé. It really teaches me how to focus and learn better and quicker.

IML: It sounds like an amazing experience! What's your advice to other young people who want to make dance part of their lives?

Jade: My advice is just to be yourself and have fun, get style, and take little pieces form everyone that you see. You can't be someone else. You have to just learn from them. Something that the choreographer Mia Michaels says is that you're born a legend, because you're not like anyone else. You have to use that.

IML: That's good to keep in mind for everything, not just dance.

Jade: Yeah, you have to realize you're unique, no matter what you do!

IML: Thanks, Jade, and good luck!

Jade: Thank you!

To learn more about The PULSE On Tour, visit www.thepulseontour.com. And check out one of Jade's most awesome performances, called "Creature":




"RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles"
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When it comes to favorite musical artists, IML readers are an eclectic bunch. You've filled the YSI boards with messages about everyone from recent pop sensations Justin Bieber and Ke$ha to older, edgier bands like Nirvana, Green Day, and Foo Fighters. But many of you share one band in common: The Beatles.

In the early 1960s, the British quartet of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr revolutionized pop and rock music, songwriting, and the entire concept of fame and celebrity. Even after the group split up in 1970, their music and legacy lived on, influencing nearly all musicians who came after them.

Today, it seems as if the Beatles are just as big as they ever were. "The Beatles Rock Band" video game is a smash-hit best seller with kids and grown-ups alike. Beatles films like "A Hard Day's Night" and "Yellow Submarine" remain incredibly popular, and Beatles t-shirts, posters, and lunch boxes can be found in thousands of shops all over the world. And just this week, Apple's announcement that Beatles music will finally be available on iTunes caused a sensation among fans hungry for MP3s of all their favorite Fab Four songs.

Sadly, the Beatles will never again play together, as only two (Paul and Ringo) remain with us. But the desire among fans of all ages to see Beatles music performed live has led to a worldwide industry of sound-alike or "tribute" bands who can offer audiences the next best thing to a real Beatles concert.

RAIN Ed Sullivan 1 photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.jpgAt the top of the heap of these groups is RAIN, who recently began a run on Broadway and will continue with a tour across North America through the spring of 2011. More than just a concert, "RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles" is a multimedia message of love for Beatles fans, covering the Liverpool group's entire career together and incorporating film clips, projection effects, and a swirling, dazzling light show that makes the most of the amazing songs. IML recently saw the show, and here's what we liked:

All Ages: Some shows appeal to a select audience or specific age group, but RAIN is for everyone. The theater was filled with older folks (likely original Beatles fans), young kids, and everybody in between.

RAIN Shea 1 Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.jpgAttention to Detail: The costumes, the wigs, the instruments, the singing...there's nothing about this show that isn't spot-on and utterly convincing. The four actor/musicians portraying the Beatles take their jobs seriously and do an incredible job of making the audience believe  they might just be watching the real thing. They even shot remakes of classic Beatles news clips that play during the breaks! Of course, for all their professionalism, the guys also seem to be having a great time with their roles.

Not just the Hits: The audience was thrilled to sing along with all the big Beatles number-one hits, but there were some unexpected song choices too. We particularly liked the acoustic set which featured quieter, more contemplative songs like the sweet,  melodic "Mother Nature's Son."

A Happy Audience: If the surest way to judge a show is by audience reaction, then RAIN is a huge success. Kids and adults spent much of the show clapping, dancing, cheering, and screaming, seemingly swept up in old-style "Beatlemania." IML admits it: we got caught up in the spirit too, and shouted the lyrics to many of our favorite songs.

We were happy for the chance to chat with Steve Landes, who plays the role of John Lennon in RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles."

IML: We really enjoyed the show! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. What part of the show is the most fun to perform? What aspect is the most challenging?

Steve: As a Beatles fan, it's fun to recreate some of the actual moments of their career,  that we do, like the Ed Sullivan show and the Shea Stadium concert. I've watched the videos of those shows a million times, and now I get to put myself in those moments, in a sense, so that's fun!

I think the biggest challenge of sounding like The Beatles is getting the vocals just right. Each Beatle was a really good singer, especially Paul and John, so to replicate as accurately as possible their vocals from the recordings, exactly the same way every night, is quite a challenge. But it's something we've worked very hard at over the years, and we came into this as professional musicians and classically tRAINed vocalists, so I think we've got a pretty good handle on it!

Steve Landes solo Army jacket Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.jpgIML:  Is it hard to get into, and then back out of, the John persona?

Steve: Again, I've been doing this for so long (I joined RAIN in 1998), so it's kind of easy now, and it's not like we're 'method' actors or anything like that -- we don't believe we're The Beatles or anything! You won't see us out and about pretending to be them 24/7!! As far as getting his character down, though, it's a matter of learning all I can about him -- his life story, why he did the things he did, thought the things he thought, and learning how to bring that to life onstage. Of course, there are the physical traits, too -- the body language, his way of moving, performing, etc., that help turn me into him onstage!

IML: How did you become a part of the RAIN band and show?

Steve: I was in the touring version of the Broadway show "Beatlemania" years ago, so I kind of knew these guys (they were a part of the "Beatlemania" show before I got in). So, years later, when they needed someone new to portray John, I was one of the people they called to try out. And we all just kinda "clicked" musically and personality-wise.

IML: Have you had any favorite moments interacting with fans?

Steve: I always love to meet fellow Beatles fans -- hardcore Beatle-geeks like myself! Sometimes people will want to call me John or whatever, which I don't mind, but for the most part, people are understanding and just love the music, and are happy that they get to come and hear this great music performed live, so it's nice to chat with them about that sorta stuff after the show.

IML: What kinds of things were you interested in when you were in middle school and high school? Did you always love music?

Steve: I always loved music, and I always loved The Beatles. I was born after The Beatles' time, so I'm what they call a 'second-generation' Beatles fan. I learned about them from my parents, and my older sisters. So they've always been a part of my life. By the time I was in middle and high school, I was playing music and singing in a local Top 40 band, playing the songs that were popular at the time, but we also played some Beatles songs too. I was also into other things in school, of course -- acting, cars, girls! The usual, I guess, but music was always what I wanted to do with my life.

IML: When you take off the costumes and make-up and wigs, do you still resemble John Lennon? Do people come up to you in the street and say, "Hey, you look like a Beatle!"?

Steve: I guess some people might think so a bit, but I don't see it -- I always see me. The main focus of our show has always been replicating the music live, as authentically as possible, and the look-alike factor is secondary, so I'm sure there are probably people out there in the world who might look more like John Lennon, but it's all about being a top-grade singer and musician, and having the ability to recreate his character and music in our show.

IML: What do you do when you're not a part of RAIN? Do you play in other groups?

Steve: We travel all the time, so there's no time for me to have another group. But I write my own music, record it, and then put it up online, so that's a great way to share my own music and still be on the road with RAIN. I live in California , so there's lots to do when I'm not on the road -- movies, the beach, Disneyland ! There's just never enough time to do everything.

IML: If all four Beatles were still with us, do you think there would have been a reunion by now?

Steve: A lot of people don't realize that The Beatles were planning to reunite at the time of John's death. Their business manager Neil Aspinall had been working on an official documentary, which at the time he called "The Long And Winding Road." They have stated that the four of them planned to reunite for the project, so that they could sit together for a series of interviews for it. The project did finally get made, in the '90s, as "The Beatles: Anthology," and the three remaining Beatles Paul, George, and Ringo did the interviews that John would have been a part of.

IML: What contemporary bands or musicians do you like?

Steve: Oh, I like a little bit of everything. I still listen to The Beatles, of course, but I like the bands that they've influenced in one way or another. I like Green Day, who are big Beatles fans. I like John Mayer, Kings Of Leon, Taylor Swift, Neil Finn, Cee Lo. A bit of every style, I think, as long as it's good!

IML: Any advice for young people who want to be musicians or stage performers?

Steve: Never give up! Keep practicing -- it's the only way to get better. But don't lose sight of the outside world. As an artist, you have to connect with the world around you, or you've got nothing to inspire you. Learn from everything and everyone, good or bad. It's just as important to learn what not to do, as well as what to do, in art, in life.

IML: Thanks, Steve! Good luck with the tour!

RAIN are: Joey Curatolo (Paul), Joe Bithorn (George), Ralph Castelli (Ringo), and Steve Landes (John). For more on "RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles," visit www.RAINtribute.com.



Celeb Scoop: Lauren Gottlieb
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Tonight! Will it be Lauren, or Kent, or Robert? Will there be stunning performances? Will Adam accidentally swear again? Will Mia be nice, or mean? Are you wondering what the heck we're talking about?

If you've been watching Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox, then we don't sound so insane (hopefully). Tonight the final 3 dancers will compete for audience votes, and tomorrow we'll get to see the season's best routines performed again before the winner is announced. It's been a great season, in our opinion, with the addition of the "all-stars" (popular contestants from past seasons)...even though we still miss Alex Wong and found it a little strange that most of the girls got voted off first. If we had to bet, we'd put money on Kent Boyd as the champ, the "is he for real?" teen from Ohio; we would say, "Oh, he's just getting votes because all the young girls are crushing on him" but he's actually a fab dancer too.

lauren1.jpgFor us, the show has never been so much a competition as just a really great place to watch dancing, dancing, dancing. That's why we were extra-thrilled for the chance to chat with Lauren Gottlieb, an "all-star" who came back from Season 3 and who's gone on to develop a blooming career as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and actor.

IML: What's it been like to come back to SYTYCD as an "all-star"?

Lauren: It's been so much more fun this time around than it was last time, as a contestant. We know the ropes now, we know what's happening. There's the fact that we're not getting judged or voted off, which is huge. With that weight off you, you can just perform and have fun. I'm also a teacher, so when you're with your contestant and you know what they need to work on from the week before, it's really exciting to try to pull that out of them, for the judges to look at them a completely different way.

IML: What kind of advice have you been giving to the contestants?

Lauren: Each person is totally different. For instance, when I did the Tyce Diorio jazz routine with Robert, we had lots of talks during the week we were partners. We talked about how his experience is, and how he feels, and it is very similar to how I felt on my season so I felt like I really knew who he was and what he's going through. I just really wanted him to forget about the judges when he went on stage and forget about the choreographers. It's really intimidating. You have some of the best choreographers in there watching you, and then you think about the millions of people who are also watching. It's overwhelming, but if you can get to a place where you can completely forget about that and just stay in the moment and have it be just you and your partner, you'll feel something completely different and magical and let yourself go. I would just talk to him and say, "When you stand up on stage, know you're a star, and when you give that aura off, people can't help but watch you." I was so happy because I saw Robert's eyes just light up and these walls sort of break down, and he went out and had his best week.

IML: As a teacher and a dance partner, that must have been a double experience for you.

Lauren: Yes...I love it. I feel like I've been there with each of one my partners. With Adechike, he had been so emotional in all his dances and when he got hip-hop with me, it was great to be goofy. I got to pull out the fun side in him. And Jose had never done contemporary and is not really a trained dancer, and to be like that and try to be intimate onstage, that was all something completely new to him. And fun to teach him.

IML: Do you have a favorite routine that you've done, and a fave that others have done?

Lauren: This season I think my favorite was that jazz routine with Robert because I just felt like we were really dancing. It wasn't about a story, it wasn't about gimmicks or anything. It was just true jazz, and it was fun to do that. Every one of them has been so memorable, though, in their own ways. The Stacey Tookey routine that Billy and Ade did was great, because their characters were so opposite and the contrast was great to watch. That was one of my favorites.

IML: How did you first get started dancing? When did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?

lauren2.jpgLauren: I was seven when I started dancing. My mom put me in classes because I had two brothers, and I would run around and do the tomboy thing. Play baseball and karate and all that. She put me in dance and I really, really didn't like it. It was so closed up. I had a body like a gymnast so it was hard to move in certain ways. It took a long time. Actually, during my first recital I ran into the audience and my mom went to get me. She walked me out onstage and told me I had to finish it. She said when I came offstage I was completely different, I had a different look in my eyes. It never stopped from there. I jumped right into it. That moment, I'll never forget it and I still see it. I just knew it was what I was going to do.

IML: Was dance something you had to juggle with other things in your life?

Lauren: I felt like I needed to play catch-up and that's one of the reasons why I didn't like it at first, because everyone had been dancing since they were 3. Even though you can't really learn too much from age 3 to 7, I felt really behind. So I jumped right into being in a competition group, and I remember I would stay after all my classes and rehearsals and watch all the older girls and just kind of let everything soak in. And that was a big part of my training too, just to watch and be around it and study that way.

IML: Did you feel like you had to sacrifice other things as you got older?

Lauren: I sacrificed a lot at times, like when I got to high school. All throughout high school, I was traveling and assisting this dance convention. So I'd be gone almost every weekend. I'd come back on a Monday and everyone had inside jokes that I wasn't a part of and whatnot. I just kind of learned to accept that and know what I really loved to do. When I was dancing, the feeling that I got was so much more powerful than that. I had to let go of all the other stuff. As far as cheerleading and other things like that, I wasn't too interested. I don't feel like I gave up too much, and in the end it was totally worth it.

IML: What else did it add to your life back then?

Lauren: I felt like it was an outlet to let all of my hyper-ness and goofiness out in the beginning. It brought out a lot and taught me a lot about moving your body, knowing how your body moves to music, to really connect with yourself. And I was kind of fearless. As a dancer, you're throwing your body around so much, and when you walk around with bruises and battle wounds...you feel fearless. Most people growing up don't put up with that. Dancers are tough. It gives you this edge.

IML: Tell us a little bit about playing a member of rival show choir Vocal Adrenaline on "Glee." That must have been a really cool experience!

Lauren: It was really cool because we came in for the pilot. We had never seen the show before, and it was amazing to have Ryan Murphy (the show's creator) standing in front of you talking about how big this show's going to be. No ego involved, just true statement of fact. We just knew right away that the idea was brilliant, the choreography was great, and the characters were awesome. We just knew what it was going to be like. So to be on set and to work closely with all the actors and everyone, and see how generous everyone is after the take, when we're wrapped. Everyone is just friends. It was just a dream to be a part of it.

IML: Was it kind of like being in a real show choir? As a group you guys had to really come together to give off that energy.

Lauren: Totally. A couple episodes into it, we started being more and more into the Vocal Adrenaline part. We ended up having these cars with the license plates. We got our characters a little bit more and more, and then we did that great finale piece. We are like this big show choir!

IML: You've also been doing a lot of choreography. How does the process work, when you have to choreograph a certain style of dance for certain dancers?

Lauren: It's totally different for everyone, but the way I work, I get inspired by music. I think it's because I have to see the whole overall experience. When I was young, I always thought dance was just about the steps. But I'm realizing more and more how much of dance is about the moment and everything else comes into play. I kind of look at it more as a director, even the hair and the makeup and wardrobe...the right music and the right lighting. I'll start with a piece of music and kind of feel the vibe of it, and let it move me. I always want to be the instrument of the song and let it move me. That's how I work, but I know a lot of people who do steps first and then find the music.

IML: What else do you do to stay fit and healthy?

laurengottlieb_yoga.jpgLauren: I do yoga. It reminds me of some of my training when I was young. Because when you're in a dance studio and your teachers see you a few times a week, they really, really know you and watch over you. When I get into a yoga class, I feel like it's like that, plus yoga is as hard as you want to make it. It's completely up to you when you get in the zone and push yourself a lot more.

IML: We heard you're involved with an arts education foundation. What can you tell us about that?

Lauren: I'm involved with the Life Through Art Foundation, which helps hundreds of underprivileged kids per year. Kids who have the drive and the passion, but not the facilities or the right teachers. I've been doing a couple of things with them lately, teaching them and giving them dance classes. I put together this Michael Jackson medley number that we did at a charity event. I knew I wanted to make it extra fun and special for them, and to see their faces afterwards was amazing. They're so talented and it's so nice to go over there and give them something they're so worthy of.

IML: What is your advice for kids who want to get involved with dance but don't feel they have the talent?

Lauren: I've talked to a lot of people like that, and it's not necessarily that they don't feel they have the talent, but almost that it's too late for them to start dancing. So many people have the passion for it and can't stop talking about it, then they say, "I'm too old, I can't do it." You can start anywhere, and some of the most amazing people and successful dancers that I've met have actually started really late. I think it gives you a lot more of a commercial -- Mia Michaels would say "pedestrian" -- quality instead of being a trained technical dancer. I think if you want it, you take classes and let it sink in. It'll happen. Just enjoy it for what it is.

IML: If you're not clicking with a certain style, do you try to find another? How do you know what style of dance is right for you?

Lauren: You'll feel it. When I put heels on and do some ballroom, it's fun but it's not something that I feel like I would do every day. On the other hand, I love hip-hop. I love my tennis shoes, and dancing like a dude sometimes. I love that. Then you feel the soft contemporary and if you can connect to that, you'll feel it. I suggest trying every type of dance, because they're all totally different.

IML: What's next for you, after SYTYCD?

Lauren: I want to fulfill a couple of teaching arrangements that I have, maybe put together a few more. And then I'm getting a little bit more and more into acting. Hopefully I'll go further in that direction. I always say that the best dancers are the best actors. And being on the show this year has been a totally different experience than a couple of years ago. I feel like diving more and more into the characters. That's becoming the fun part of me. I'm looking forward to that!

IML: We're sure you'll continue to have a lot of interesting and exciting experiences doing that! Good luck with everything!

Lauren: Thank you!

Lauren answers advice and other questions from dancers and young people on her website, www.Lauren-Gottlieb.com.




Summer Theatre listing
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We got one calendar listing for a summer youth theatre performance from an IML'er. Keep 'em coming!

Writes Vanya, 12:

"In Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA, there are two summer camp performances on the 29th of July starting at about 6:30 and ending around 9:00. One is a play, called Holka Polka, and one is a musical, called the Point of the Pyramid. I will be in both! I'm the girl with blond hair to her shoulders and blue eyes, plus black rectangular glasses. I'm the sassy witch, Zorka, in Holka Polka. Come if you can! No autographs, please! LOL!"

Thanks Vanya! We hope some IML'ers in the Pittsburgh area can come see your sassy witch in action!


We Heart Summer Youth Theatre!
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Hey, what have you been doing so far this summer? Hanging around? Camp? A family trip? Or just doing your best to stay (a) cool and (b) sane?

Some of you IML'ers might be lucky enough to spend extra time doing a thing you love, like a sport or hobby. We were thinking about what these might be. That's when we remembered that a lot of you are into music and drama, and are hopefully getting a chance to explore that this summer...so we took a stroll on YouTube searching for youth theatre videos. Bingo!

If you want to see what some other tweens and teens have been up to, or just need a fix of "Glee"-like fun, here are a couple of our favorite clips.

The WOW Youth Musical Theatre in Weymouth, Dorset in the UK really did wow us with "We Will Rock You" by Queen:
 



Members of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Youth Repertory Theatre rehearsing "My Junk" from "Spring Awakening":



It's early in the summer still, so we hope there will be more videos giving us a peek at the amazing productions young people are putting together...all over the world, really. Are you part of an upcoming performance that you'd love other IML'ers to see? Whether it's theatre, music, dance, or anything else you're excited about, write to us and tell us more (we'll post info on the shows so people who live nearby can check them out) and if possible, send us a link to the video online. If you want to write anonymously, you can always use our Write To Us page and leave out your email address.