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Monday, March 14, 2005
Story last updated at 8:44 AM on Mar. 14, 2005
N.Y. Scout Gives Performers Insight Into Entertainment Business


Peter Sklar, long-time talent scout and current Broadway producer, addresses Yankton¹s young performers and their parents during a motivational lecture given at Judi¹s Dance Studio in Yankton Saturday.
Peter Sklar was unlike any career counselor the students at Judi¹s Dance Studio ever heard. Instead of shooing them away from their dreams of becoming professional dancers, singers and actresses, the New York talent scout encouraged the 20 or so children ages 6 and up to follow their hearts. As he sipped tea from the lid of his thermos, he pulled back the curtain to the world of entertainment.

Sklar, who has discovered, coached and directed such stars as Reese Witherspoon, Ricki Lake and Sarah Jessica Parker, dropped by Yankton Saturday afternoon to not only give aspiring young performers a rare chance at being discovered, but also to teach them the secrets of professional success ‹ no matter their career.

³There¹s more important things in life than grades, accomplishments, achievements and looks,² said Sklar, who holds a Master of Education in adolescent development and counseling from Harvard University, ³none of which make people as successful as how they think about themselves and care about themselves.²

Talent, education, passion, self-motivation and luck ‹ these are the qualities most people equate with professional success. But, according to Sklar, these only provide the foundation on which to build a great career, especially in the entertainment industry.

³Talent and training ‹ how important is this? Not really,² he said. ³If you take a lot of classes and train really hard, then you are just like all the other actors, singers and dancers in New York of which 93 percent are unemployed. Lessons, classes and training are air ‹ they¹re all things that you must absolutely do. But there are simply too many well trained, talented people out there to get picked simply because of that.²

It¹s what performers have that goes beyond these basic character traits that get them their dream jobs, he said. He shared four principles that are sure ways of getting noticed, whether during an audition or a traditional job interview. They include:

* Practice being aware of how you feel about you ‹ because self awareness turns into self acceptance, which eventually evolves into self confidence. Potential employers want to hire someone who fits into a specific position, so they want to get to know the real person behind the resume and portfolio.

A job applicant with a poor self image is seen as boring and untrustworthy, often making the employer nervous. Whether an audition or a traditional job interview, the employer asks questions not to necessarily find out the answer but to listen to how the person answers them. The employer wants someone with a healthy self image.

³Picture three lions in the woods. The first is unhappy and nervous. The second is happy and relaxed. The third is choosing which lion it wants to go near,² Sklar said. ³Generally, people are attracted to people who are confident and happy, because they are less maintenance and more fun.²

* Eat plenty of green vegetables every day, drink eight swallows of water every hour but only on an empty stomach, avoid sugar and caffeine, and wash your hands often to avoid disease-causing pathogens. ³Most of the kids I see look like crap,² Sklar said. ³If they don¹t look good, they don¹t feel good about themselves.²

Whether they¹re fighting acne, are underweight or have the sniffles, unhealthy people are not nearly as attractive professionally to potential employers or casting directors as those who care of themselves.

* Avoid serious romantic relationships until you have experienced professional success and are at least age 25. Significant others ‹ besides family, close non-romantic friends and God ‹ provide a constant distraction, especially when the relationship takes a turn for the worst or hits a hurdle. People who are serious about the performing arts or making it to the top of any professional ladder cannot balance both a demanding career and a demanding personal life, Sklar said.

³It has never worked, and it never will,² he said.

* Politely and respectfully ignore the advice of any person who tries to dissuade you from your dreams.

³Many times, this person will be a parent or someone else who loves you very, very much,² Sklar said. ³But if you follow their advice, even if you don¹t but you believe it, you¹ll go nowhere.²

Following Sklar¹s lecture, several children and teens stayed for an interview with the talent scout. Dance studio owner Judi O¹Connell said she was pleased with many of the tips Sklar offered. Her only misgiving was that more children couldn¹t attend.

³There are so many talented young people in Yankton,² O¹Connell said. ³This is great, because it not only motivates them but exposes them to the (entertainment) business. It inspires the child.²


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