The Chrysalis Stage Advanced Performing Arts Conservatory for students in grades eight through 12 will emerge this fall in Sharon.

Robert Russo, left and Joseph Scarvell

Robert Russo, left, and Joseph Scarvell

Conceived by Joseph Scarvell and Robert Russo, the Conservatory will provide academic instruction in all facets of the theater to advance understanding of the performing arts as a force for student and community relevance.
The first semester begins Oct. 8 and will culminate with a production of the American classic musical “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
“The performing arts give children the opportunity to express themselves creatively, giving them a modality of expression that is wholesome and enriching,” said Dr. Joe Fammartino, president of the Chrysalis Stage board and a former student of Scarvell’s from Scarvell’s days teaching at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage.
“Sadly, the arts are first to be trimmed from public school budgets, and Chrysalis Stage is an opportunity to complement and expand the students’ exposure,” Fammartino said.
Organizers see Chrysalis Stage as a supplement to school arts programs, not a replacement, Russo said.
Chrysalis Stage will hold two open houses for students and their parents to ask questions, meet some of the instructors and get a feeling for where they will stage “West Side Story.” The open houses will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 and 11 a.m. Sept. 29 in the Armory for the Arts, 49 S. Sharpsville Ave., Sharon, adjacent to LuLu Beans Cafe.
The Chrysalis Stage will offer classes in academic analysis of dramatic literature and in acting, singing and dance, scenic lighting, costume design, music, orchestration and stage and production management, and technical theater or media communications.
“I want this to be a total immersion,” said Russo, executive and producing director. “We’re not just scratching the surface.”
The range of classes caters to the desires of all students. Instructors include those who teach performing arts at area universities, as well as those from Juilliard Drama Division and The Actors Studio in New York. Guest artists from Broadway also will teach during the semester.

“These people are the highest level in their field,” said Scarvell, artistic and education director for the Chrysalis Stage. “We have a premiere organization.”
“We are very excited to have this level of talent coming to Sharon to work with our community and our youth,” said Jen Krezeczowski and Jim Landino, owners of the Armory for the Arts. “The arts are so very important to revitalization, so we are happy to support this endeavor and are looking forward to an amazing show.”
Tuition is $375 per student for the 12-week semester. Scholarships are available for students who need financial assistance. Classes will be Monday through Thursday, generally from 4 to 7 p.m., and some Saturdays.
“The Chrysalis Stage project is an incredible opportunity for students to join forces with talented people from schools across the valley,” said Brookfield Local School District Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor. “Mr. Scarvell is a theater legend, and the plan he has presented is both ambitious and exciting. The experiences and knowledge participants will gain will be unmatched by any other options currently available.”
D. Abbey Alter, who will teach dance and choreograph the show based on Jerome Robbins’ original choreography, promised the students “an experience.” The initial weeks will be spent working on skill levels, and then get into rehearsals for the show, she said.
“I’m serious about what I do,” said Alter, founder of the Walnut Lodge Movement and Yoga Center, Sharon, and Ballet Theater Shenango Valley, Sharpsville. “It’s going to be a serious production. We’re expecting the kids to come in and work and have fun.”
Auditions for “West Side Story” will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2 in the Armory for the Arts. Students auditioning should dress comfortably. Singers should bring a song of their choice, with sheet music. Non-singers will be given a script from which to read.
“West Side Story” will be staged Dec. 21-30 in the Armory for the Arts. Touring opportunities to the Youngstown Playhouse in January 2019 and other venues are being considered.
The Chrysalis Stage is organized as a non-profit. Information: