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Schools make a dramatic entrance

Pasadena High student is among many reaping the benefits of an artful education.

February 05, 2012|By Tiffany Kelly, tiffany.kelly@latimes.com
  • Students Austin Holden, 17, from left, Margarette Aguinaldo, 18, Keilan deCuir, 17, and Yeva Musharbash, 16, rehearse a Shakespeare scene, which took place in the auditorium at Pasadena High School on Tuesday, January 31, 2012. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
Students Austin Holden, 17, from left, Margarette Aguinaldo,…

Yeva Musharbash, a senior at Pasadena High School, learned English by watching television. The 16-year-old moved with her family from Jordan to the United States when she was 3 years old and spoke only Armenian and Jordanian-Arabic.

It’s hard to say if daily immersion into the small screen had anything to do with it, but Musharbash now writes songs, performs in music videos and is seeking a second agent. “I feel like since I do love this, pursuing this as a career would not only be unreal, but it wouldn’t be work,” she said on a break from performing improv sketches during a morning drama class. “I hope I can pursue this, and I hope I can make it good.”

Musharbash is tall with long, flowing dark hair. In an auditorium on campus, she is sociable with her classmates, but says she never used to be this outgoing. A few years ago, a talent scout saw her perform an improv sketch and encouraged her to apply for a chance to win a scholarship at an acting school. She was selected from a group of 30 students.

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“I was very, very lucky,” she said.

Musharbash’s family doesn’t have the money to pay for expensive classes. But thanks to her scholarship and an agent, she is picking up work. She just finished shooting a music video a few weeks ago with a friend, which she hopes will “go viral.”

“If she gets picked up, I get picked up,” Musharbash said. “So I’ll probably be out of school but pursuing dreams. Hopefully that happens as soon as possible.”

Los Angeles is full of professional acting studios, but public and private schools in Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena are finding ways to give students an education that prepares them for stage work. Most schools have a theater program or club, but state budget cuts to education have slashed some arts programs and forced campuses to find creative ways to produce annual plays and musicals.

Providence High School in Burbank found an unusual way to offer drama classes to students. The private school tapped Jeremy Jackson and Dominic Catrambone, two actors who run the youth theater company DiscoveryOnstage, to bring a professional drama program to the school. In their first year, they had 16 students sign up. Now, around 40 students participate in the program.

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