When other kids were playing video games and hanging out at the mall, a group of talented youths were setting the stage for their futures and a theater program that showcases their exceptional talents. They hope it will continue doing so for future aspiring artists.
The newly formed 20@620 will try to create artistic opportunities for people 29 and younger in the performing arts. Aside from their ages, the "20" represents a core group of 20 local young people who hope to return home in the summers to hone their talents.
"We want to be able to try out projects and create a market for lesser-known shows," said producer Glenn Grieves.
When they are at school or involved in other productions, their teachers or other people choose what they will produce and the direction their work will take.
"We are under the blanket of the Studio@620, but we want to be an entity unto ourselves," Grieves said.
The group produced the play Wild Party last summer to rave reviews and a packed house. The profits from that show were used to fund their current production.
The inaugural production, The Girlie Show - A Burlesque Review will feature a naughty review of Broadway's brassiest songs, musical theater pieces and group numbers. The all-girl cast is led by Michelle Dowdy, 20, direct from Broadway's Hairspray.
The group members, most of whom have graduated in the last couple of years from the performing arts programs of Pinellas County schools, offer a glimpse of what the theater community and prestigious academic institutions have recognized.
"We haven't ever seen such a group of young artists move through here. They are exceptional," said Bob Devin Jones, one of the artistic directors at Studio@620.
Grieves, 20, has worked on Off-Broadway productions, and co-producer and director Jamieson Lindenburg, 22, has traveled the world with Rent, the musical.
Ben Verhulst, 19, who is in charge of technical design, filmed, edited and scored a video for the annual "Studio@620 at 6:20 on 6/20" program. Jones likened him to a budding Orson Wells.
Arranger Nick White, 20, was accepted into Russia's world-renowned Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory based on a composition he wrote for Riviera Middle School. Accompanist Dylan Glatthorn, 20, staged two of his own musicals: The Way It Goes at the Palladium in 2004, and Manifesto last year at Studio@620.
Besides Dowdy, the cast includes Ann Cornelius, Lisa Finegold, Arianna Hoeppner, Carly Lewis, Melissa Oropesa, Alix Paige, Taylor Precourt, Janita Ward and Amada Witt.
IF YOU GO
'The Girlie Show - A Burlesque Review'
7:30 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. and midnight Saturday; and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg.
Call to reserve: 895-6620.
Cost: General admission is $10. Special cabaret table seating with refreshments, $25. Beer and wine will be available.