admin / August 17, 2012
The sound of kids yelling in unison reverberates through Polaris Arts Academy. It’s one of the rehearsals for an upcoming musical. The stage is wide here. The academy is less than two months old. Kids and parents are shuffling in and out, while a choreographer helps move objects in and out. They’re all gearing up for the academy’s upcoming production– the first public show by the academy.
The academy provides lessons in basic dance forms, singing, acting, and music– the unison of which perfectly matches their musical production. The troupe, composed of students of the academy and a few adult actors, rehearses quite often. The summer-camp children rehearse daily, while the rest rehearse twice a week, each group in roughly two-hour sessions. Saturdays, the whole cast comes together for four-hour rehearsals. Dress rehearsals begin this weekend. Kymberli Boynton, the owner of Polaris, will be there every step of the process.
Karen McCullah and her daughter Madison are each cast members. Karen is an ensemble member, while Madison is little orphan Annie, the lead, herself. Madison has been acting for over the past four years. “You get to be with people, and it’s a lot of fun,” Madison said. “I’ve never been in a lead role before, so it’s actually really cool for me.”
Karen joined up with Polaris after seeing Boynton, her old college sorority sister, mention it on Facebook. “I just thought, ‘What a great opportunity for children.’ And, of course, I thought about my child,” Karen said. “I need to share with everybody because this is always a great opportunity for children to just be able to explore their talents.”
Ariana Nasser, another child student, is acting for the first time through Polaris and this production. “I really like it,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.” She likes that she sings, dances, and acts altogether, preferring singing the most because, she says, it helps her express herself. Nasser described her character, July. “She’s helpful. She’s nice, and she helps people when they need help or are hurt,” Nasser said. She enjoys rehearsals partly because she can spend time with all her fellow castmates– she says she has befriended all of them.
Karen helped recruit children for the new academy. “For me, as a parent, I would really like to see more families get to know Polaris Arts,” Karen said. “I think the children already here are having a great time and learning new things, and it would be great to have other children have the same opportunity.”
Gentile was always into dance. She once had a studio in Long Beach on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Willow Street, which she was forced to close down after the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. It was more the curfews in its aftermath than window damage that sapped away customers and forced Kymberli to close down the studio.
She met Marlene Dove, the Aunt of Whitney Houston, around 1989 by sheer happenstance and after some conversation found herself hired by Dove. “She actually is the one who inspired me to do all this because she took me under her wing, and I was only 21 at the time. She wanted to teach me the ropes. She needed someone who could work alongside her, so I became her junior executive assistant,” Boynton said. “I was like her sidekick. We were together all the time. And she inspired me to go back to college.”
Years later, in 2004, Boynton was living in Las Vegas, working in entertainment with Dove’s mentorship to help her. While there, she founded Polaris– but, she left Vegas in 2007 after her home’s fixed rate expired, and with that came a much higher, unaffordable rate.
Boynton shut down Polaris when she moved back and only revived Polaris this year, with the grand opening on June 25. “It wasn’t the right time to re-open here until…the school system started cutting all the performing arts programs,” Boynton said. “So, I thought, ‘Okay, you know what, we need performing arts.’ Because they kept all the sports.” The academy had its first day of summer camp on June 28.
The location is a former auto-body shop. “When we took this over, we literally came here the day [the previous owner] was moving out, and this place was grease. Imagine a body shop being here since 1977,” Boynton said. “In two weeks we turned this whole place around. We painted everything…my husband built the whole stage himself.” Boynton described her husband as having built the stage over three sleepless nights to prepare it in time for the grand opening, and all the while her husband was still working full-time.
Boynton's daughters, Kaitlyn and Amanda, are helping choreograph– as well as a friend of Amanda’s with experience in choreography, David Murphy. They scurry in and out of the lobby and the theater space. One aspiring adult actor, Alexis Rosseau, is at the academy today as well. He plays Rooster. Each person at the academy today is readying for the show. Dove will visit the opening night in a show of support, and she plans to partner up with Boynton to provide students a chance to work with celebrities, take even more classes and receive scholarship monies.
“I’m very proud of what Polaris is doing and that she is continuing the mission to serve the underserved children in the performing arts,” Dove said. “And I also am very pleased with what we had generated as a way to get music into our children and give them the structure of music as a discipline and as an academic achievement.”
Boynton has used the space at Polaris Arts for community events, such as a teen nightclub for the weekend or a family movie night spot, instead of musical-theatre-related events alone. And she already knows what the next show will be for Polaris: The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Karen joined the dance ensemble of Annie herself despite no acting experience. “I’m so glad I joined because it’s been so much fun,” Karen said. “I love it. I like being around this kind of thing. I see the joy in Maddie’s face being part of it, and all of the children. I like how Kym and the staff treat the students– and the adults– that are in the play. It’s just a great place…Kym said it one time as, ‘This is everyone’s happy place.’”
Rehearsals, Shows and More..