Tracy Chapman, celebrity judge for “Beach Blanket Babylon”

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Celebrity Judge Tracy Chapman and Beach Blanket Babylon’s Val Diamond with Shaylin Hoye, winner in the singing category, at Beach Blanket Babylon’s Scholarship for the Arts finals. Photo credit: David Allen Photo: David Allen

Kids win ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’ scholarships

By David Wiegand, SF Gate, Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Three Bay Area graduating high school seniors are each $10,000 further along on their way to careers in the performing arts, after winning scholarships in the sixth Steve Silver “Beach Blanket Babylon” Foundation competition Monday night in North Beach.

From a field of more than 400 entries, producer Jo Schuman Silver and her staff chose nine finalists who competed before a panel of celebrity judges and a packed house of family members and friends at the Club Fugazi, home of the long-running – and then some – “Beach Blanket Babylon,” created 34 years ago by the late Steve Silver.

The winners were Shaylin Hoye of Novato High School, in the acting category; Chelsea McLaughlin of Eastside College Preparatory, East Palo Alto, in dance; and Sara Lemesh of Linda High School, San Rafael, in voice.

After receiving oversized checks from Schuman Silver and past winners Samantha Siegel (dance), Dylan Saunders (acting) and Angela Travins (voice), the winners talked about their plans with emcee Don Bleu.

Asked if she anticipated a career in theater, Hoye deadpanned, “I might now,” adding she plans to attend Concordia University in Irvine next year. For her audition, Hoye performed a monologue from the play “Equus.”

Lemesh, who sang a devilishly challenging aria from Verdi’s “A Masked Ball,” was almost speechless when her name was announced, but re-discovered her voice long enough to tell Bleu she will attend Rice University next year and that she’d been singing opera since she was 12.
McLaughlin will attend the Ailey School of Dance and Fordham University in New York. For her winning audition, she performed a modern dance routine to Ray Charles’ recording of “Georgia on My Mind.”

The other finalists: in acting, Sairus Graham-Thille, San Francisco School of the Arts; and Keelin Woodell, St. Ignatius College Prep. In dance, Tal Oppenheimer, Lick-Wilmerding High School; and Erin Stahmer, Homestead High School, Cupertino. In singing, Alexandra Akin, San Francisco School of the Arts; and Erin Suth, Redwood Christian Junior/Senior High School, San Lorenzo. Graham-Thille was the only male in this year’s crop of contestants.

Judges include composer Gordon Getty, San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley, nightclub host Harry Denton, KMEL’s Chuy Gomez, KGO-TV’s Don Sanchez, actress Rita Moreno, California Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, singer Tracy Chapman, American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Carey Perloff, Berkeley Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Tony Taccone, TV personality Jan Wahl and ODC/Dance Artistic Director Brenda Way.

Schuman Silver launched the scholarship program in 2002 and has overseen the competition every year except for 2004 when “Beach Blanket” marked its 30th anniversary and donated large sums to various Bay Area arts organizations.

And if any of the contestants – winners and also-rans – had any doubt that their participation in the scholarship finals could lead to a career in show biz, San Mateo’s Caitlin McGinty was on hand to offer reassurance. In 2002, McGinty came in second in the vocal category, went off to UC Irvine, spent a couple of years knocking around Los Angeles looking to catch a break, and recently heard about an opening with “Beach Blanket Babylon” itself. She decided to give it a shot and, in a couple of weeks, she’ll be on the Club Fugazi stage once again, this time as a working performer.

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