City Scuffle: Black Lites, Five to Life, Anna and the Media Unit

Celebrating its 35th year providing hands-on training to Central New York teens in performance and production for television and stage, the Media Unit’s prospects for the coming season can be justifiably characterized as “really hot.” Recently recognized with PEACE, Incorporated’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champions of Diversity dinner, last year the program awarded $8,300 in scholarships to participants, including $3,000 donated by Eric and Judith Mower, and the prestigious $1,500 Michael Harms Festival Best Graduating Senior Performance Award. Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Youth Channel has added two more weekly time slots for the Unit’s national award winning Rough Times Live, broadcast locally on Time Warner Channel 98, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Since 1976, almost 80 percent of Media Unit alums have achieved careers in television, stage and related industries.

What’s hot?

An exciting new collaboration with On Care is launching a tour of Severely Normal, an original music theater exploration of teens in the mental health system, including a nomination to perform at a national conference in Orlando in July. A continuing collaboration with Prevention Network will result in a new performance focused on the high school athletic Honor Code, presenting both a happy as well as disastrous ending to examine the issues of team members drinking and drugging during the season. For the eighth year, collaboration with the city Parks Department will produce another in the street theater series Angels with Broken Wings promoting alternatives to street violence among youth. Two summers ago a performance of Angels with Broken Wings: If We Had Peace staged in the Justice Center for incarcerated youth who had help write the script was featured on the ABC Nightly News.

What’s really hot?

Media Unit kicks off the new year with a follow up to last year’s fund-raising roast of the executive producer at the Palace Theater. This year the Black Lites, Five to Life and Anna Hoffmann will reprise their performances at Pensabene’s Banquet House, 135 State Fair Boulevard, Thursday, January 12. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with performances from 6 to 8:30. The theme of this year’s fund-raiser is helping get a new hat for Mr. Walt. The ex prod has worn his product of Bergan’s Urban Fashions, localized with feathers from pigeon, crow and sea gull, continually for the past 18 years. Local and international celebrities will contribute chapeaus for a silent auction (including items from Armory Square retailers and restaurateurs) and an audience vote. Tickets are $10, and can be reserved by calling 478-8648 or e-mailing roughtimeslive@yahoo.com.

Auditions for teens

Media Unit is currently auditioning 13- to 17-year -olds for cast and crew. Cast involves acting, singing and dancing. Crew should have some stage or video technical experience. Prospective auditioners should call 478-UNIT. This season includes six weeks of summer paid performances, a New York City tour in April and a chance to compete for scholarships at the Harms and BeVard Festivals.

Three-time New York Press Association Writer of the Year, Walt Shepperd is a weekly columnist with The Eagle, and founder and executive producer of the Media Unit.

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