Adrian Grenier, a 1994 YoungArts finalist in theater, parlayed his YoungArts experience into a leading role as Vincent Chase on HBO’s buddy comedy Entourage for eight seasons. On the eve of The National YoungArts Foundation’s YoungArts Week in Miami and its series of free performances, Grenier reflects on the role YoungArts has played in his career.
“Specifically for me,” the effect of YoungArts “has been immense and profound and subtle,” says Grenier, who will be honored at this week’s YoungArts Gala. “A lot of times it’s not exactly calculable, not necessarily measurable like test scores and the like, but it’s important nonetheless.”
Grenier, also a musician who directs and produces films, gives an example of how this early support boosted his confidence and business sense.
“Thinking outside the box,” he says. “I have a couple businesses. and YoungArts helped me in business as well as to problem solve when there is not an obvious solution and no one there to tell you what the answer is. You have to process to find a solution and sometimes have to think abstractedly.”
The YoungArts nod has similarly given lift to the careers of actresses Vanessa Williams, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington; Tony nominee Raúl Esparza; American Idol’s newest judge, rapper Nicki Minaj; and jazz musician Terence Blanchard.
With this year’s roster of 2013 YoungArts winners, the world might soon welcome the likes of Jessica Darrow, a musical theater finalist from Coral Reef Senior High in Palmetto Bay; or spoken theater finalist Nile Harris from Miami’s New World School of the Arts; or Miami Arts Charter School senior Lizza Rodriguez, a finalist in the writing field.
These and 149 other finalists chosen from 10,000 applicants will participate in YoungArts Week at various Miami locations beginning Sunday. The 15- to 18-year-old finalists are the top tier of 685 total YoungArts winners in visual, literary and performing arts. As part of the 32nd annual YoungArts Week, the finalists will join master classes and workshops led by actors Grenier and Marisa Tomei, jazz musician Bobby McFerrin and choreographer Bill T. Jones. Capping the week is an awards ceremony and performance gala honoring Fame choreographer Debbie Allen, violinist Joshua Bell and Grenier.
For arts lovers on a budget, the week promises many free events, including vocal jazz, theater and dance performances Monday through Wednesday at New World Center. The Miami Art Museum hosts visual art and photography exhibitions on Thursday. The Adrienne Arsht Center features writers’ readings on Friday along with a ticketed event, Jazz and the Philharmonic — featuring McFerrin, Chick Corea, Dave Grusin and Blanchard.
For the youngest honorees, the week promises exposure and education.
Darrow, a senior at Coral Reef who turns 18 a day after the gala, evokes Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl in her zany turn as the title character in The Drowsy Chaperone, a role she played two years ago with Miami Children’s Theater.
The bright, rising talent already has her future in the arts mapped out three years before she can legally drink a toast to her success.
“My little dream, my goal, is hopefully to be cast in Saturday Night Live because I love comedy. That is my forte.