A newsmaker you should know: Successful dancer-author salutes Mt. Lebanon's Center for Theater Arts
March 7, 2013 8:15 PM
By Dave Zuchowski
Realizing a career dream is a blessing; seeing your aspirations come true twice is a double dose of good fortune.
Ask Tim Federle. At an early age, the former resident of Upper St. Clair got bitten by the theater bug when his parents took him to a production of "Cats" while the family was living in San Francisco.
"At the time, I thought if I could only get a job wearing a Halloween costume every night of the week, that would be great," recalled Mr. Federle, 32, now of New York City.
After he relocated to Upper St. Clair with his family at age 9, musical theater remained the driving force in his life. But there was a price to pay for his interests in a town noted for its love of sports. When his school chums learned that he liked theater, he said he was often teased.
But he found a haven when he enrolled in the Center for Theater Arts, an after school program in Mt. Lebanon that seeks to create a safe place where aspiring "theater dorks" can be themselves.
Mr. Federle quickly went on to perform in "Oliver!" and "The Wizard of Oz" for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, in "Godspell," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita" for Pittsburgh Musical Theatre and "Beast on the Moon" for City Theater.
"Pittsburgh was a great place to grow up because there's a great opportunity for children to participate in the arts," he said. "I soared as a performer because of my great instructors at the center."
Just after high school, he auditioned for a part in the ensemble for a touring production of "Fiddler on the Roof." After getting the job, he hit the road for four months.
His big career break came in 1999, when he vied against 500 other hopefuls for a chance to dance with Christina Aguilera in the 2000 Super Bowl half-time show. After being selected as one of only twelve dancers, the experience was enough of a career bump to persuade his parents to allow him to postpone college and head to Broadway for a try out for a part in a show. Mr. Federle made his Broadway debut in 2003 when he appeared in a revival of "Gypsy" starring Bernadette Peters.
After a long series of shows that included "Spamalot," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and The Little Mermaid," he, at the age of 29, became one of the associate choreographers in a production of "Billy Elliott: The Musical"
"In the show that starred a kid in the title role, my job was to cast, train, monitor and mentor the young performers who had to perform live in front of a very large audience every night," he said. "While working with them, I was inspired by seeing how they were living their dream because they loved what they were doing, often despite significant roadblocks."
That inspiration prompted him to look back on his own experiences and reminded him of another burning desire -- to write a book about the challenges facing any youngster who had to battle to realize his or her dream.
On Feb. 5, Simon & Schuster released the debut work of his second career, "Better Nate Than Ever," an inspirational story that references the adventures of a youngster smitten by theater. Already the book is in its third printing and has been getting great reviews. "Time Magazine for Kids" chose it as a featured children's book for the winter of 2013 and a feature about Mr. Federle and his book made the front page of the arts section of the New York Times.
Last month Mr. Federle kicked off a book tour in Pittsburgh that ended in San Diego. Before he settles back into his New York apartment, he'll make one more trip, this time back to his "emotional home town." At 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe, he'll be the featured speaker at the patrons' reception during the annual fund-raiser gala for the Center for Theater Arts.
"The center did so much for me and is still doing so much for other kids," Mr. Federle said. "I'm happy to be coming back to help the center continue doing so many important things for kids."
At the reception, patrons will be able to listen to Mr. Federle's talk, get an autographed copy of his book and meet and greet the author.
"At our gala, we're saluting Tim for his success both as a performer and an author," said Billy Hartung, the center's executive director. "We're also saluting the students of our school who are following their own dreams."