You could call it a match made in heaven.
Pete Zalizniak was an acting teacher without any students. Pastor Todd Redden wanted to start a drama group to perform skits for the services at New Beginnings Christian Center in Seneca Knolls, so he placed an advertisement in a local religious publication. Zalizniak responded to the ad, and the Open Door theatre group was born.
For the past few months, the group has been meeting every Saturday at 6 p.m. at the church at 7247 State Fair Blvd. Their first big performance, an Easter show, was "a really big success" according to Zalizniak. Participation is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about theater.
"It's an opportunity for anybody who's ever been interested in theater to get involved in a no-pressure environment," Zalizniak said. "It's a really supportive environment. That's why we came up with the name Open Door. Everyone's welcome -- come as you are."
"More churches are using drama than ever before," Redden said. "People respond very well to the visual arts. We decided that we are going to try to do more drama as part of a different way to approach a message. Our real focus is to have a message in what we're doing."
Zalizniak, who has a master's degree in theater and currently works with Appleseed Theater in Syracuse, provides basic acting lessons to Open Door participants at no cost so that the group can perform small skits at the church every month. Aspiring actors as well as those interested in non-acting pursuits such as props, set construction, make-up, costumes and playwriting are all welcome.
"The guy is phenomenal," Redden said.
"Whoever is interested is getting some really, really good teaching," he said, adding that the skits performed so far ranged from comedy to drama to slapstick.
Those interested in learning more about the group can contact Zalizniak at 456-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The church's website is newbeginningssyracuse.org.