Newsmakers you should know: Family-run school helps to bring performing arts into children's lives

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Perhaps it was inevitable that Chris Orosz and her brother Anthony "Tony" Marino would get involved in musical theater when they were growing up in North Huntingdon. Their father, Angelo, played standup bass, had a voice that sounded like Frank Sinatra's and took his three daughters and another son to play gigs at banquets, dances and community events.

They were on the John Reed King and Josie Carey shows on local television, played with Pittsburgh jazz legend Joe Negri and once entertained inmates at the state penitentiary in Pittsburgh.

Flash forward decades later and Mrs. Orosz, of Irwin, and Mr. Marino and his wife Renata, of Hempfield, have a thriving theatrical and musical presence in Westmoreland County with Stage Right School for the Performing Arts.

Its first class opened in 1998 with 12 students. Now the studio in Greensburg has as many as 180 students at a time, stages several student productions a year and has a professional season in which students work with professional actors. It also offers other programs.

Friday through Sunday, the professional company will present "Working, The Musical" at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center.

"It's been a rewarding business," Mrs. Orosz said. "It has been great watching kids find themselves and find their niche in theater."

Mrs. Orosz and her sisters -- Linda Moore of Greensburg and Karen Piper of Irwin -- and their brother Angelo of Altoona were part of the family musical group. Their mother sewed matching costumes. Tony Marino was too young to be involved, but after their father died in 1978, Mrs. Orosz nurtured his growing interest in theater.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Tony Marino's future wife was growing up as the daughter of a jazz musician and she started taking dancing lessons at the age of 3. She later studied music and art therapy at the University of Wisconsin, then transferred to study musical theater at Point Park College. She arrived in Pittsburgh thinking that Broadway was just one theater in New York City.

"I had been living in the world of the dancer in the Midwest," she said. "I didn't know what opportunities there would be for me."

She met Tony Marino in 1994 when they had leads in "Bye Bye Birdie" at the Byham Theatre. They married in 1999.

"We auditioned in New York City often enough to know that we didn't want to live there," he said.

So they played in Pittsburgh theaters and taught at the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory founded by Ken Gargaro of Pittsburgh Musical Theater.

By then, Mrs. Orosz was dissatisfied with managing medical practices and wrote a business plan to create a school for the performing arts. Their mother, Shirley Andonisio of Irwin, came up with the name. The newlyweds came to teach full time shortly after the doors opened.

Stage Right is more than a dance, music and theater studio. Mr. Marino developed outreach programs for libraries, community events and schools in both Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

Mrs. Marino works with local groups for people with autism, including Stepping Stones in Greensburg, an after-school program that helps autistic children develop social skills.

"Autistic children flourish in the arts, especially theater. It helps them with communications skills, eye contact and every day skills. It helps them to gain confidence," she said. "I love to work with special needs children. There are no limits. I have a passion for therapy and the arts are my passion."

Mrs. Marino acts in Stage Right's professional productions and has appeared with Saint Vincent Summer Theater at Saint Vincent College in Unity. She also does choreography for local college and high school productions.

Mr. Marino worked in broadcasting after he graduated from college and still does voice-overs. He also appears in Stage Right and other local and Pittsburgh productions.

Mrs. Orosz is the executive director and producer.

"This has been a rewarding business," she said. "It's wonderful to see the growth of the children who come here, and I wonder what they would have done, how they would have found themselves in theater, if we weren't here."

Many Stage Right students have pursued degrees in theater and related fields or are in college and community productions. Several found careers in theater and related fields.

"One thing we like to show parents is that there are a lot of opportunities," Mrs. Orosz said. "Yes, everyone would like to be on Broadway, but you can also be a playwright, do voice overs and commercial work. You can make theater into a business."

Mr. Marino calls Stage Right's work "a covenant with the community."

"We are really committed to the idea of sharing our gifts and passing it along," he said.

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, freelance writer: .


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