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Artist of the Month - April 2016

Arts Council Menifee

When Greg Newman was in high school, he dreamed of being on the Broadway stage. Now as a theater arts teacher at Heritage High School, he encourages and develops those dreams for thousands of young people.

Newman has been selected as April’s Artist of the Month by Arts Council Menifee’s board of trustees.

Newman said his connection with the local Arts Council has allowed his school’s performing arts events to be more publicized in the community and he has seen a solid core of support since connecting with the organization. Preparing his students for the upcoming musical comedy, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", he tirelessly teaches and rehearses each day of the week.

Newman has worked at Heritage since it opened in 2006, having taught at Menifee’s Paloma Valley High School for 12 years prior to that. He appreciates the excellent theater facility offered at the new school, which includes a 500-seat main stage theater with fly wings and a 270-seat black box theater with "great acoustics."

Heritage offered him a chance to develop a theater department with a scene shop and other aspects of putting on a show that were not available for him to teach at the other school.

May’s musical production is a parody of big business and has about 30 cast members.

"It’s very tongue in cheek and clever," said Newman, of Riverside. "You don’t do some shows because of the talent mix. Most musicals have one male and one female lead and possibly a second lead. This show has four guys and four girls with solo songs."

He said auditions in February led to the choices for the leads in "How to Succeed" and he was happy that a strong cast features students from all four grade levels.

"As a teacher, you try to build on (students’) strengths and add things to their tool box," said Newman, 60.

Raised in Ohio, Newman was always interested in the performing arts.

"My mom loved Hollywood and all things theatrical. She loved to watch movies," he said. "My dad was into athletics so I tried football but gravitated to multiple vocal music groups and eventually became mesmerized by theater."

Seeing Joel Grey on stage during a Kenley Players summer stock production in Ohio was a turning point for Newman.

"It was an electric moment," he said. "I loved movies but realized this is where magic happens."

After high school, Newman enrolled at Brigham Young University because Tad Danielewski, who started the Professional Actors Workshop in New York City, worked at the Department of Theatre and Cinematic Arts from 1975 to 1989. He knew he would get a life-changing education and although he was one of the few non-Mormons at the school, he enjoyed the time he spent there focusing on theater.

After college he made his way to the bright lights of New York City, working the graveyard shift at hotels so he was free to attend theater auditions during the day. He started touring with a repertoire theater until he returned to Ohio. After his mom passed away, he made his way to California and was given an opportunity to teach to others what he had come to love: theater.

"We appreciate the good partnership with our high school theater programs," said Linda Denver, Chair of Arts Council Menifee’s Theater Division. "It’s a joy to see the students’ enthusiasm for theater arts at Heritage High School."

"“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on May 13, 14, 20 and 21. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. Heritage High School is at 26001 Briggs Road in Menifee.

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