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Father Fame Spreads the Word

by David De Silva

About the author:
Creative mastermind David De Silva is the originator behind the ever-popular Fame series, in which he captured the compelling struggles of a young generation of idealistic performing arts students in the 1980s and brought their stories vividly to life in film, television, music and on stage. Touted as "Father Fame," De Silva conceived, developed and produced the MGM motion picture Fame , which lm received four Academy Award nominations (including a win for Best Song). He then served as consultant and producer for the highly successful television series before developing his idea for the stage. Currently, the musical production of Fame on 42nd Street is playing off-Broadway, while various other forms of the show are playing in theaters around the world. Here, he speaks about creating The Father Fame Foundation, whose mission is to interactively promote the value of arts in education, with a focus on theater arts.

In many ways, Fame on 42nd Street is the culmination of a journey, and the realization of a dream. That is because this musical production represents a watershed moment in the phenomenon that is Fame , a return to the city that spawned both a landmark cycle in modern entertainment, and the idea, and the message, that lay behind it. Beginning with a hit film that forever changed the meaning of the word 'fame,' through a television series that won a devoted and dedicated audience, and finally to a musical play that has triumphed from Peoria to Pretoria, people of all ages have responded to the Fame message. A message of hope, and of hard work;, of talent and passion and of toughing it out through trying times, reaching for the stars… and reaching within ourselves.

Great entertainment, in whatever form, will always find a loyal following, and Fame , in all its manifestations, is no different. But there is more to this remarkable run of global success. There is a mission.

That mission is perhaps best expressed through the Father Fame Foundation, an organization I am both honored and privileged to manage. It is a mission that derives its purpose from those it is attempting to serve. That is, its inspiration is the aspirations of generations of talented kids. Some of them are enrolled in performing arts schools. They know what they want to accomplish, and are pursuing a means of achieving their goals. Others are searching for a way to express their individual gifts. They are all willing to help themselves. But like all of us, they could use a helping hand.

That, in a very real sense, is the mission, and the method, of Fame . Kids can be aided by the support of the schools they attend, through encouragement, advice, structure, and the knowledge that there are those who really care about them. They can be guided through the difficult times, and applauded for a job well done. But, on another level, Fame can touch lives in ways more indirect, but just as profound. When kids the world over see the musical Fame , will they be moved in a way that reaches far beyond the thrill of entertainment? Will they see in those striving characters something of themselves? And will they be inspired to pursue their own dreams, to attempt to discover the artist within? In essence, will the message and the meaning of Fame belong to them ? If it does, then Fame has succeeded, and its philosophy is borne out.

Because, I think, it is that philosophy that has really sustained this ongoing story, and accounts for the global appeal of Fame . Arts in Education is often neglected. Many people have a tendency to see it as a luxury, as an addendum to the so-called 'core' curriculum. But, beyond exposing kids to the value, to the beauty, of the arts of the past and present, how can we discover, nurture, and train the artists of the future without a commitment to both those young artists, and their futures? The arts stay with us our entire lives, helping to shape the talents of whatever vocation one might choose.

That summarizes the Fame philosophy. There is joy in seeing a young person feel satisfaction as they learn, as they develop, as they become better artists. But the joy is not limited to that individual. We, as a society, are enriched as each student is enriched. We benefit by each new artist who can thrill and move us.

And if the musical Fame can be a central part of that process, then I am proud. If audiences of all ages, from Lima, Ohio, to Lima, Peru, can connect to the dream that Fame represents, then I am pleased. And, if young people who have been part of the show can watch their careers grow, then I am happy. People like Jennifer Gambatese, who went on to play the Penny Pingleton in Hairspray . Or Tony-nominee Gavin Kreel, who starred as Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie . Or Nadine Isenegger, who is now playing Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street on Broadway.

Those, and so many more like them, are the achievements that make it all worthwhile. Because, in the most fundamental sense, those are the things that write the story, and are the substance, of this entity we call Fame .


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