Rising stars on Long Island
From the South Shore to the East End, Long Island's got talent. Here, we put the spotlight on locals who are making names for themselves in the entertainment world.
GINA NAOMI BAEZ, from Hewlett
THE GIG She played “the Singing Inmate” in a season 4 episode of “Orange Is the New Black.”
HER STORY Baez, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 12, says performing was her outlet as she underwent treatment. “I knew from then on that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she says. Baez has since appeared in “A Christmas Carol” at Madison Square Garden and “In the Heights” at the Montclair Operetta Club in New Jersey. At her “Orange Is the New Black” audition, producers were impressed when she performed an entire song in Spanish. Baez says she may return next season.
WHAT’S NEXT She’ll play Nancy in “Oliver! Reinvented” Aug. 20 at the New Paradigm Theatre in Fairfield, Connecticut. In the fall, she’ll star in the 1950s-set Off-Broadway musical “A Taste of Things to Come,” about four friends in a cooking club at the start of the Women’s Rights Movement.
GREG PROSSER, 45, from Bayville(Credit: Joe Henson)
THE GIG He won the best actor award at the Nice International Film Festival in May.
HIS STORY Prosser, who is also an MRI technician in Brooklyn, got the acting bug in 2008, when he accompanied his daughter Samantha to an acting class. He studied at the T. Schreiber Studio in Manhattan, and has had TV roles on “White Collar,” “Power” and “The Americans.” “Almost every time I’m on television, I play a cop,” he says. “I’m Irish and I have the Brooklyn accent and it plays well.” “Second Chance,” a drama about a home invasion gone awry, turned out to be an apropos title: Prosser shot the movie shortly before having lifesaving brain surgery. His award-winning performance, screened at last week’s Long Island International Film Expo in Bellmore, continues to be on the festival circuit. “It’s been awesome,” he says of the experience.
WHAT’S NEXT The horror short “Wraith,” in which he stars, is being submitted to various film festivals.
JEANNIE POWERS, from Yaphank(Credit: Adrienne Brand Photography)
THE GIG She hosts and writes the “Hollywood Hit Lists” radio segments.
HER STORY Powers, who also is a photographer, said she started writing a comedy blog about being half-Asian and growing up in the Philippines. Her humorous recollections caught the eyes of several local comics, and she ended up doing podcasts at Governor’s comedy club in Levittown. The success of that led to “Hollywood Hit Lists,” which is heard on several local stations — WRCN/103.9 FM; WPTY/105.3 FM (Suffolk) and 101.5 FM (Nassau), and WJVC/96.1 FM. “I report entertainment news, but I always try to add some jokes in there, especially with the Kardashians,” she says. Powers also has appeared on Madhouse TV on the web and made her stage debut last fall in the dark comedy “The Waiting Room” at Bare Bones Theater in Northport.
WHAT’S NEXT Powers’ dream is for her radio gig to be syndicated.
REGAN LUTZ, 12, from Levittown(Credit: Mom2Boyz Photography/Stacey Broggy, Mom2Boyz Photography)
THE GIG She voices Skip the squirrel in the Nick Jr. series “Zack & Quack.”
HER STORY Regan began acting while in kindergarten and has appeared on television in “Sesame Street” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” Voicing Skip, who is always trying to outdo her squirrel sibling, Hop, has been an enjoyable and challenging experience, Regan says. “With voice-overs, you don’t have to worry about facial expressions or hand movements,” Regan says. “The hardest part was getting the right sound for the character.” Regan is also passionate about animals and has been helping Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington. “When I was turning 7, I realized I didn’t need anything else for my birthday, so I asked my friends to bring gifts for the animals instead,” she says. Since then she’s raised more than $2,000 each year for the shelter.
WHAT’S NEXT Regan’s dream is to voice a character in an animated movie.
DAVE DIAMOND, from Port Washington
THE GIG He’s a singer and drummer with a new album, “Trois.”
HIS STORY Diamond, who grew up in Bethpage, started playing drums when he was 4. “I started with my brother’s cheapie drum kits and kept breaking them,” he says. He began taking drum lessons at 9 and then also learned guitar. Diamond, who has played drums for several bands and has opened for Todd Rundgren, has a hard time classifying his eclectic musical sound. “I’d call it Americana funk. I can go country and then go James Brown funk on you,” he says. “Trois,” Diamond says, which features all his own material, is more funk-tinged than his previous album, the bluegrass-inspired “Revenge of the Slowpoke.” Diamond also plays drums for several other bands including Assembly of Dust.
WHAT’S NEXT He and his Dave Diamond Band will perform at K.J. Farrell’s in Bellmore at 8 p.m. June 29. Diamond also plans to record a live studio album with his band this year.
SEE, 21, from Centerport(Credit: Catie Laffoon)
THE GIG She’s an alt-rock/alt-pop singer whose EP “Ties” drops June 24.
HER STORY SEE taught herself to play drums at age 13, as well as guitar, bass, ukulele and piano. While in high school, she was a drummer and songwriter for The Red, an indie rock band. After the group broke up, she wanted to focus on singing and decided to forgo college to pursue a musical career. Last year she signed with Blue Elan Records, and on June 22 at 6 p.m. she’ll perform and sign copies of “Ties” at Looney Tunes in West Babylon. For the first single, “Potions,” she came up with the title first, then wrote the lyrics. “I grew up loving Harry Potter so much that I wanted to write a song called ‘Potions,’ ” she says. The song — about being entranced by another person — has nothing to do with the boy wizard.
WHAT’S NEXT She’ll perform at Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan on Thursday nights in July.
MICHAEL DONATELLI, 10, from Huntington(Credit: Jennifer Donatelli)
THE GIG He’s making his screen debut in “The Derby.”
HIS STORY Michael starting acting at age 5 when he attended Dream Makers Performing Arts School in East Northport. Since then, he’s had roles in many Off-Broadway musicals including Linus in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” John Darling in “Peter Pan” and his favorite — beanstalk-climbing Jack in “Into the Woods.” In the coming-of-age drama “The Derby,” which was filmed this spring in Greenlawn and Centerport, Michael plays a Cub Scout involved in the Pinewood Derby. When the filmmakers learned that Michael plays chess, they worked the game into the script. Though Michael says the movie was a terrific experience, he didn’t enjoy the long shoots. “It was a 12-hour day, and half the time I wasn’t doing anything,” he says.
WHAT’S NEXT He just landed a role in a New York City production of “The Wizard of Oz,” and aspires to appear on Broadway.
GARY FERRAR, 31, from Franklin Square(Credit: Ah! Real Magic)
THE GIG He's performed magic for such VIPs as Robert De Niro and Michael Bloomberg.
HIS STORY Gary the Great, as Ferrar bills himself, began doing magic in grade school. Since graduating from Hofstra, where he studied performing arts, he's been up to tricks performing at pediatric hospitals, on Fox News Channel and, in 2012, on "America's Got Talent. "It was a good experience, but not what I expected," says Ferrar, who didn't get past the first cut. "It was a lot more heavily produced than you might think." Ferrar does mostly private events, many of which draw celebrities. "I was doing a parlor show and happened to pull someone from the back of the room," Ferrar says. "He had a cap on and a large beard. In the middle of the routine I realized I had called up Robert De Niro. We talked afterward, and he] had me do a trick for his daughter."
WHAT'S NEXT Prepare to be amazed when Ferrar performs at parks throughout Long Island this summer.
MARISSAANN RIZZITELLO, 19, from Ronkonkoma
THE GIG The season 3 "Voice" contestant just released her first single, "Then One Day."
HER STORY Rizzitello was 6 when her music teacher told her parents "your daughter has a voice like an angel" and should pursue music. Though she did school shows and sang the national anthem at a Ducks game, Rizzitello's real break came at age 15 in 2012 when she was on "The Voice" and landed a spot on Christina Aguilera's team. "That was the first time I took music so seriously," she says. "I was working every day with big industry people that I'd never had the opportunity to work with." After her elimination, Rizzitello performed at Manhattan's Apollo Theater and started writing songs. "Then One Day" was inspired by a friend whose family was affected by autism (proceeds from iTunes sales go to the Family Center for Autism in Garden City).
WHAT'S NEXT She's working hard at writing more songs.
ALANNA AND MIA AMOSCATO, 1, from Brookhaven(Credit: Lilly Ann Portrait Studio)
THE GIG The twins appear in several episodes of TV Land's "The Jim Gaffigan Show"
THEIR STORY The siblings had their first job at 2 months in the movie "How to Be Single" after their mom, Donna, answered a casting notice on Facebook. Since then they've worked on TV's "Madam Secretary," "Blindspot" and Gaffigan's sitcom. "They can only work for a certain amount of hours," says Donna, an environmental scientist. "If one is acting up, they can take the other one in." She says the girls will keep working as long as they enjoy it, and suspects Mia is more likely to pursue acting as she gets older. "Mia is very hammy and likes when the camera is on her. Alanna is more serious," Donna says. "They're like my comedy and tragedy masks."
WHAT'S NEXT They'll be seen in two upcoming films: "Sully," starring Tom Hanks, and "The Girl on the Train," with Emily Blunt.
RORY MICHELLE, 29, from Plainview(Credit: Laura Togut)
THE GIG This singer-songwriter just released her third CD, "The God Album."
HER STORY Michelle, who was raised in West Babylon, studied with sopranos in Vienna and at Harvard. In 2013, she put out her first album, "Turtledove," which was followed by "Inner Child" in 2014. "My idea is to do an album every year for six years," she says. "Originally I thought I could take 10 years to perfect one album, but if I took those same 10 years and put an album out every year, the product would improve so much more each time." "The God Album," which was inspired by Jewish text and folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, has richer production values than her previous releases and covers many different styles, including swing, folk and rock. She'll perform songs from the album Sunday at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Glen Cove.
WHAT'S NEXT Michelle is in the early stages of penning a musical about relationships.
RYAN DIBIASE, 21, from Commack and ANDREW MORALES, 22, from East Meadow(Credit: Shuttersound)
THE GIG The LIU-Post seniors' short film has been accepted for the Cannes International Film Festival.
THEIR STORIES DiBiase and Morales, who have been friends since freshman year and have their own production company called Shuttersound, have meshed well creatively. Their Cannes entry, "The Stall" -- DiBiase wrote and directed, Morales shot and edited -- concerns two janitors who find a suicide in the girls' bathroom at a school and then have to figure out what to do. "It spawned from an event in high school," DiBiase says. "I walked into the boys' bathroom and found a kid unconscious in the stall." The movie is not in competition at Cannes, but DiBiase and Morales hope it will give them an opportunity to meet and network with other filmmakers.
WHAT'S NEXT After graduation, they plan to focus full time on Shuttersound with an eye toward making more shorts and, eventually, full-length features.
ASHLEY GERASIMOVICH, 12, from Garden City(Credit: Emily Soto)
THE GIG She plays the "too cool for school" Delilah on the TBS sitcom "The Detour," which premieres April 11.
HER STORY Ashley made her acting debut playing the daughter of Naomi Watts and Sean Penn in the 2010 thriller "Fair Game" and has been on a roll since. She played Louis C.K.'s bratty daughter Jane on FX's "Louie" in 2010 and appeared in the 2011 film "We Need to Talk About Kevin" with Tilda Swinton. "She asked me what my favorite dog is and then gave me a life-size black stuffed poodle," Ashley says. In "The Detour," about a family whose road trip goes horribly wrong, she plays a girl who likes clothes and boys more than books. "She's like almost my exact opposite," Ashley says. "I love school and am obsessed with chemistry."
WHAT'S NEXT Ashley has a featured role in the movie "A Different Sun," about a Chinese family that moves to Germany.
JORDAN YOUNG, 37, from Syosset(Credit: Jordan Young)
THE GIG He is a television writer-producer.
HIS STORY Young, who graduated from Manhattan's School of Visual Arts, worked as an animator on "The Simpsons" for three years. "I thought I had achieved the right dream, then decided writing was where I wanted to spend my time so I could be responsible for the content and the comedy," he said. Young was then hired as a writer on Comedy Central's animated reality-show spoof "Drawn Together," which led to writing and producing for Fox's "Raising Hope" and two current series -- Netflix's "Bojack Horsemen" and Fox's summer series "Golan the Insatiable." "I only really do adult comedy," he said. "I'm not good with the kids stuff. Anything that's funny, I'm happy to work on."
WHAT'S NEXT He's on the production team of Fox's "Son of Zorn," a fall sitcom about a he-man trying to reconnect with his son that blends live action and animation.
ANTO GHARIBIAN, 20, from Patchgoue(Credit: Photographer: Garen Barsegian)
THE GIG He directed the music video for Oyster Bay musician Gianni Paci's "Time and Time Again."
HIS STORY Gharibian works as an associate producer for Whooden, a Manhattan-based broadcast and media production company, and he has his own production company called Antraniq. Though he's been involved in the production of Web-based commercial spots, "Time and Time Again" is his first music video, and he took the opportunity to make it play like a mini movie. He shot it at Laser Kingdom in Coram, and he created a love story about the captain of an all-male laser tag team who falls for the opposing female team's captain. "It was a learning curve for a lot of us," Gharibian says. "We had to learn how to animate from scratch, put in video effects. It took longer than expected, but it turned out great."
WHAT'S NEXTGharibian hopes to shoot more larger-scale music videos and short films.
NICK KIVLEN, 20, Glenwood Landing(Credit: Getty Images/ LEON NEAL)
THE GIG His band, Sunflower Bean, released its first CD, "Human Ceremony."
HIS STORY Kivlen (center) and his drummer pal Jacob Faber from Glen Head formed Sunflower Bean three years ago while still at North Shore High School. "The name really doesn't mean anything," says Kivlen, who plays guitar and does vocals. "I was just thinking one day and the name popped into my head and it stuck." Once vocalist and bass player Julia Cumming came on board, Sunflower Bean took off and played more than 50 gigs in its first year, ultimately landing a spot at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, last year. After touring with Brit rockers The Vaccines, Kivlen and his bandmates headlined their own tour in England. In February they released their CD, which Kivlen says is reminiscent of '60s psychedelic rock.
WHAT'S NEXT A second album is in the works, and Sunflower Bean returns to SXSW March 17 and 19.
THOMAS J. BELLEZZA, 37, from Shirley(Credit: Beatrice Sniper)
GIG He's a onetime rocker turned actor, writer and producer.
HIS STORY For 10 years, starting as a senior in high school, Bellezza was part of Tenebrae, a heavy-metal band. After leaving the group, he took a year off, then started doing stand-up comedy and soon after opened the Rose Theater in Holbrook. But he missed performing and sold the theater a few years later, moving to Brooklyn to pursue acting full time. Since then, he's had bits on many TV series, including "The Blacklist," but his favorite role was playing an assassin who doesn't use guns in the short film "The Course." On the '70s-set music-biz drama "Vinyl," which premieres Feb. 14 on HBO, he appears as a roadie in two episodes and a bouncer in a third.
WHAT'S NEXT "The Circle," about addicts and a man who is obsessed with them, was created by his production company. "It's me and a writing team creating this 12-episode Web series," in which he also stars.
KIRSTEN MAXWELL, 23, from Huntington(Credit: Ken Farrell)
GIG The singer-songwriter just put out her first CD, "Crimson."
HER STORY Though she performed in choruses as a child, it wasn't until college that Maxwell became passionate about folk singing and songwriting. Last year she took first place in a contest sponsored by the Rhode Island Songwriters Association and last month was a winner at the South Florida Folk Festival, where she also performed. "Crimson," which came out last spring, features songs which Maxwell says "come from a very personal place and are simple expressions what I'm feeling." The disc's topics range from the title track, which she calls a "finger-picking" love song," to the antifracking song "Dirty Water."
WHAT'S NEXT Maxwell, who cites Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Judy Collins as influences, has several upcoming concert dates, including Our Times Coffehouse in Garden City on Feb. 19 and Manhattan's Rockwood Music Hall on March 8.
STEVE HARPER from Hempstead(Credit: Greg Crowder)
GIG He created the Web series "Send Me."
HIS STORY Harper's professional stage debut was in "The Three Sisters" with Christopher Walken at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. He did regional theater but "got tired of living out of a box" and turned to television, landing roles on "All My Children" and "90210," and writing for USA Network's "Covert Affairs." "Send Me," about a woman (Tracie Thoms) who sends African-Americans back to the days of slavery, premiered last week on BET.com, and co-stars Harper as her disapproving husband. "I watched a lot of time-travel shows and movies, and it seemed like a lot of them were about white people, who could fit right in," Harper says. "I always thought, as a black man, I would never fit right in." The webisodes run about three minutes each, but Harper says "a lot of really juicy stuff" gets packed into that time.
WHAT'S NEXT Harper is writing a TV pilot script and a play.
PAUL IANNIELLO, 29, from Valley Stream(Credit: MSG Networks)
GIG He's part of the ensemble in "Elf: The Musical" at Madison Square Garden (Dec. 9-27) and is the understudy for Buddy.
HIS STORY Ianniello has come a long way since his stage debut in fourth grade as Daddy Warbucks. He was "a class of one" in the musical theater program at Nazareth College, where he got a lot of nurturing by his instructors, he says. After joining the touring companies of "Madeline and the Black Hat" and "Rockband," he landed a role in the touring company of "Elf" three years ago. As part of the ensemble, Ianniello plays many roles, including Charlie the Elf, a souvlakia vendor, a policeman, a doorman and a disgruntled Santa. "This is the first time I've been able to live and perform in the city and the state I grew up in," he says. "It's going to be a wonderful, magical holiday."
WHAT'S NEXT After "Elf," Ianniello says he'll take a break.
VINCENT AMELIO, 49, from Manhasset(Credit: Darryl Patterson)
GIG His play "How Alfo Learned to Love" runs at 59E59 Theaters from Dec. 16 to Jan. 3.
HIS STORY Though Amelio has worked as a teacher in Great Neck for 25 years, he's also an accomplished playwright. His first play, "Rookie Lifeguard's Last Day," based on the 13 summers he worked as a lifeguard at Jones Beach, was performed in 2005. "Alfo," which was performed at the 2010 NYC Fringe Festival, is a comedy about a man with commitment issues and was written at a critical point in Amelio's life. "I wrote the most pressing issue in my life, which is why am I afraid of commitment," says Amelio, who has been happily married for eight years. "Working through those struggles in the play in a funny, comedic way helped me understand what is blocking me from letting someone in."
WHAT'S NEXT Amelio is at work writing another play.
NICOLE TURESKI, 29, from Southampton(Credit: Evan Glaser)
GIG She's the lone female in the Little Mermen, a Disney rock cover band.
HER STORY Tureski started doing musical theater when she was 8 and as a student at Penn State belonged to an a cappella group. She has been with the Little Mermen since it began 18 months ago with a gig at Webster Studio. Since then, the band has done about five shows, including a Halloween gig at Santo's Party House, putting its own spin on "Circle of Life" and other Disney classics. "If you walked into a bar and weren't paying attention, you might not even realize it's a Disney song," she says. Tureski also has a day job in finance ("Some people play in a sports league, we play in a Disney cover band") but wouldn't mind if the band turned into a full-time gig.
WHAT'S NEXT The Little Mermen will perform at Lucille's Bar & Grill in Manhattan on Jan. 16.
GABRIEL VEGA WEISSMAN, 27, from Rockville Centre(Credit: Gabriel Vega Weissman)
GIG His play "Loose Canon" is running at SoHo Playhouse Oct. 22 and 23.
HIS STORY Weissman enjoyed acting in plays while in middle and high schools, but after earning his bachelor of arts degree in English and theater from Skidmore College, he realized directing was a better fit. He both acted and was a directing intern at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and also worked with writer-director Athol Fugard at Lincoln Center. "Loose Canon," which Weissman co-wrote with Brian Reno, satirizes American consumerism with segments such as Molière shopping at Ikea. It was performed at FringeNYC in July and returns this week at SoHo. To research, he and Reno spent plenty of time at Ikea. "There's a whole Ikea vernacular," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT He's the assistant director of David Mamet's play "China Doll," which opens in November, and Roundabout Theatre Company's upcoming revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night."
PETER FRIZALONE, 25, from North Massapequa(Credit: J.J. Santini)
GIG He's directed several short films.
HIS STORY Frizalone says he started making films with his friends when he was 15. He honed his craft as a student at New York Film Academy and has since directed five shorts for his company, Movieman Productions. "Bloodlines," a 22-minute horror film from 2014 about a weekend that turns deadly for four friends, was financed thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. (The trailer won an award at the Long Island International Film Expo.) "Mommy," also from last year, was a three-minute short done for HBO's "Project Greenlight" that was screened at the Long Beach Film Festival. "Horror is my favorite genre," says Frizalone, who cites "Psycho" and "Scream" as his inspirations.
WHAT'S NEXT Frizalone, who works as a real estate agent, hopes to eventually earn enough money to make a feature film. "A thriller action movie would be my ultimate goal," he says.
RO DELLEGRAZIE, 37, from New Hyde Park(Credit: Kris Rubio)
GIG She's a stand-up comic.
HER STORY DelleGrazie, who got married Oct. 2, says she was "a big nerd" as a kid, with aspirations to be an astronaut or president. As she got older, she realized comedy was a better fit, and in 1999 found work as Lisa Lampanelli's opener. "It was grass-roots training because she wasn't exactly famous yet. I learned how to work a divey bar and to take control of the room if someone heckled me," DelleGrazie says. She moved to Los Angeles in 2004, and the next year went on her own. Since then DelleGrazie has performed at Comic Strip Live, Laugh Factory and Caroline's on Broadway. Much of her comedy deals with being a New Yorker in L.A. as well as being Italian. "You don't have a father named Vito without getting some material," she jokes.
WHAT'S NEXT She's developing a radio show and opening a studio where she'll teach stand-up.
J.D. LIFSHITZ, 22, and, RAPHAEL MARGULES, 23, both from Lawrence(Credit: PMK-BNC)
GIG They produced the zombie film "Contracted: Phase II."
THEIR STORY The two met as students at Yeshiva Elementary and reconnected after high school, after each had made an entree into the film world. Lifshitz was cyber penpals with horror filmmaker Eli Roth ("Hostel"), which led to an internship with director Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour"). Margules, meanwhile, interned for producer Israel Wolfson. In 2012, Lifshitz and Margules moved to Los Angeles and in a few months raised enough capital to start their company BoulderLight Pictures. Their first film, "Contracted," made for $55,000 in 2013, fared so well on video on demand and Netflix that distributor IFC Films upped the budget for the sequel, which opened Friday in Manhattan and is available on demand. "Horror is a great place to start to build an infrastructure. It's a lucrative genre," Lifshitz says. "But we want to make all kind of films."
WHAT'S NEXT Their thriller "Dementia" arrives in January.
PETER MICHAEL MARINO, 49, from East Meadow(Credit: Alicia Levy)
GIG He wrote and stars in the play "Late With Lance."
HIS STORY Marino, who was in "Stomp" for five years, also wrote the 2007 musical "Desperately Seeking Susan," which opened on London's West End. "It was also the fastest show to close on the West End," he jokes. Undeterred, Marino put a comic spin on the experience in his one-man show, "Desperately Seeking the Exit," which played in New York City and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012. For this year's festival, he developed "Late With Lance," about "a fanatical, nontalented musical theater chorus boy wannabe" who hosts a talk show. "He's expecting famous people to show up, and when they don't, he pulls people from the audience," Marino says. The show plays at Manhattan's Triple Crown Underground Sept. 25 and 27 and Oct. 2 and 4.
WHAT'S NEXT He's mounting Solo Com, a festival of about 100 original one-person comedy shows, in November at the Flatiron District's People's Improv Theater, where he teaches.
ISSAM MKAIKI, 4, from Islip Terrace(Credit: Walid Mkaiki)
GIGHe's in the Oct. 7 episode of "Law & Order: SVU"
HIS STORY No one can call Issam a slacker. At 7 weeks old, he appeared in a print ad. But his "SVU" role as the neglected child of a drug-addicted mother could be his chance to break out. For his audition, Issam impressed the director and producer with an emotional scene he was asked to do on the spot. Issam worked with a stunt coordinator for one segment in which he had to cross the street diagonally by himself. "It's going to look like he was dodging vehicles," says his mom, Christina Mkaiki. Issam bonded with director Martha Mitchell and star Mariska Hargitay, whom Issam called "the nice, pretty lady with the black dress." When shooting wrapped, Hargitay surprised him with a gift of four Rescue Bots.
WHAT'S NEXT Issam has been on several auditions and he'll attend Fashion Week and the Long Beach International Film Festival.
RHETT ROSSI, 43, from Bellmore(Credit: Rhett Rossi)
GIGHe wrote and stars in the one-man show "This Is the How."
HIS STORYYou may have seen Rossi, who now lives in Brooklyn, in any number of Off-Broadway plays or on TV ("Law & Order"). While appearing in a play called "The Wool Gatherer" in the late 1990s, Rossi began writing the autobiographical "This Is the How," about "growing up on Long Island during the heavy-metal era of the '80s." His 2010 play, "In God's Hat," in which Rossi also starred as a man just released from prison, got a rave from The New York Times. In his revised version of "This Is the How," which comes to Manhattan's Playroom Theater in October, Rossi plays everyone from his parents to local hooligans. "I've always been able to impersonate people," he says.
WHAT'S NEXTRossi is working on getting "In God's Hat" made into a film.
MICHAEL MINGOIA, 35, from Yaphank(Credit: Justine Lynn)
GIGHe stars in "Random Us" at the NYC Fringe Festival.
HIS STORYMingoia, who previously lived in Rocky Point, earned a bachelor of music degree from Five Towns College, and as a member of the vocal jazz ensemble Mixed Nuts, he performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. He developed acting aspirations a few years ago, and after taking classes, landed TV roles on "As the World Turns," "The Good Wife" and "The Michael J. Fox Show." "Random Us," a dramedy about the trials of a married couple, has been a welcome challenge for Mingoia. "This is the hardest character I've ever had to play because he had a lot of different shades," Mingoia says. He also wrote the song "Whirlwind of Your Love" for the play, which will be presented at the Kraine Theater Thursday, Sunday and Aug. 27.
WHAT'S NEXTMingoia is working on his first full-length album.
CHRISTOPHER MESSINA, 30, from Smithtown(Credit: Anna Ty Bergman)
GIGHe plays Joe Pesci and understudies Frankie Valli in Broadway's "Jersey Boys."
HIS STORYMessina started acting while attending Hauppauge High School, where his dad is the wrestling team coach. After a semester at Suffolk Community College, Messina left school to pursue acting and began with roles at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. His eye was always on Broadway, and in 2011 he was cast as Pesci in the second "Jersey Boys" touring company, where he also served as a dance captain. In July 2014, he joined the Broadway company, and while he says Pesci is fun to play, nothing tops the times he's gone as Valli. "When you play Frankie, you go on the roller coaster that is his life," he says. "It's vocally taxing and emotionally taxing. . . . It's so great to sink your teeth into such an amazing script."
WHAT'S NEXTMessina's dream is to be cast as Valli.
BECKY GOLDBERG, 28, Farmingville(Credit: Andréa Zotos Breslin)
GIG Becky Goldberg co-wrote the musical "210 Amlent Avenue."
HER STORY Goldberg, a Stony Brook University alum who now teaches at the school, began working on "210 Amlent Avenue" with classmate Karl Hinze in college. The show, which is set in the Hamptons during a July Fourth celebration, deals with an unexpected guest's questions about what caused the death of his parents. "I gravitate toward stories about people's struggles to find themselves after they experience some sort of emotional upheaval," Goldberg says. The show, which she calls "a small chamber musical," has had readings at Stony Brook and in New York City. It will have its first fully staged performance at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre Thursday, July 9, through Sunday, July 12, and Tuesday, July 14, as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
WHAT'S NEXT Goldberg hopes the show will get picked up by a regional theater company. She also is working on a new play.
BILLY RECCE, 17, Amityville(Credit: Billy Recce via Facebook)
GIG Billy Recce wrote the book and music for "Balloon Boy: The Musical.".
HIS STORY Recce, who began writing plays when he was 11, has had his works performed at the Kennedy Center and New York's Cherry Lane Theatre. He started "Balloon Boy" when he was in seventh grade after becoming fascinated by a highly publicized 2009 story of a Colorado man who claimed his son was stuck in a weather balloon in the sky. Recce, who says his influences range from Stephen Sondheim to "Saturday Night Live," wanted to put his own satirical spin on the event and came up with "Balloon Boy." The show is being presented at the New York Musical Theatre Festival Tuesday, July 7, and Saturday, July 11, at The Studio Theatre at Theater Row in Manhattan..
WHAT'S NEXT In the fall, Recce will enter Fordham University's playwriting program. Recce says he has also begun work on another play.
KATIE ZIMMER, 16, Commack(Credit: Susan Zimmer)
GIG Katie Zimmer is a pop singer-songwriter..
HER STORY As a child, Zimmer never imagined she'd have a singing career. "I had a lung disease as a child, so I didn't even start singing until I was 11," she says. Zimmer, who found her voice after lip syncing at a fifth-grade talent show, says she's never taken any singing lessons. She's performed at many local talent contests, and took first place in the "Your Big Break" competition at the Gold Coast Arts Center last year. Zimmer has now written her first two singles, which she says are pop-oriented, and will perform them Saturday, July 11, at the Long Island Summer Festival at Pennysaver Amphitheater in Farmingville.
WHAT'S NEXT Zimmer will take part in the Great American Showcase at the Jones Beach bandshell on July 23.
MARK NEWMAN, from Great Neck(Credit: Danal Records / Glenn Gamboa)
GIG He's a roots rock musician.
HIS STORY Newman started playing guitar with bands while in high school. "I wound up singing because I was usually the main songwriter in the band," he says. "It's not that I thought I was a great singer, it's just that everybody else in the band was worse." He's since performed with noted musicians, including John Oates, Sam Moore and Sam the Sham, who taught him to slow down his playing. "He's written some great blues songs, and I got to play them with him, and it was really an eye-opener," Newman says. Last fall, Newman released a new album, "Walls of Jericho," and his EP "Brussels," featuring him and his acoustic guitar, came out in March. His song "What She Does to Me" was heard on "NCIS: Los Angeles" in 2012.
WHAT'S NEXT He plays The Bitter End in Manhattan Monday, June 22 KJ Farrell's in Bellmore Tuesday, June 23 and Manning's Pub & Grill in Carle Place Thursday, June 25.
TAYLOR GILDERSLEEVE, 23, from Mattituck(Credit: Morgan Gildersleeve)
GIG She just shot an episode of MTV's new series "One Bad Choice," which premieres July 9.
HER STORY Gildersleeve's first acting job was playing Sydney Harris, a teen who dabbled in drinking, on the soap "All My Children" in 2006 and '07. "You're producing an hourlong episode every single day, which is unheard-of in any other genre," she says. "It was like the most intense summer camp a kid could want." She's also guest starred on many series, including "Law & Order," "30 Rock" and "Person of Interest." This year, she graduated to leading roles with January's Lifetime movie "Sugar Daddies" with Peter Strauss, and now "One Bad Choice." "Each episode is a real-life cautionary tale where one bad choice changes the course of someone's life," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT Her indie movie thriller "The Factory" comes out in October, and she's making a movie in France with her fiance.
DANA HENNEBORN, 30, East Islip(Credit: Rock of Ages)
GIG She plays Young Groupie in "Rock of Ages" at The Venetian Las Vegas through Aug. 30.
HER STORY After earning her bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from the University at Buffalo in 2008, Henneborn spent the next four years performing on cruise ships. When attempts to crack Broadway didn't pan out, she accepted a friend's invitation in January 2014 to stay at her house in Las Vegas. "She needed someone to watch her cats," Henneborn says. She seemed destined to land a role in "Rock of Ages": Henneborn auditioned for it three times in Vegas and about 20 times in New York. "I even auditioned for the Norwegian Cruise Line show," she says. Her favorite number is the challenging "Any Way You Want It." "I have to climb a pole to sing it," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT Henneborn is ready to sign on for another year if her contract is extended.
STEVEN CARL McCASLAND, 28, from Dix Hills(Credit: Samantha Mercado-Tudda)
GIG Five plays he wrote will be performed at Clarion Theatre in Manhattan May 7-31.
HIS STORY McCasland began writing short stories in middle school, including one about Teddy Roosevelt visiting orphanages that he turned into a play for his summer camp. At Pace University, he studied directing, and he's helmed many productions, including the 2013 revival of the legendary Broadway flop "Moose Murders." The Clarion plays -- four of which he directed -- concern forgotten episodes in the lives of real people, he says. "28 Marchant Avenue," for example, deals with the lobotomy of JFK's sister, Rosemary. "I've always been sort of a history geek," he says, "and I find that these little moments are so interesting and tell so much about these people."
WHAT'S NEXT He's writing a play about Fanny Brice, and is working with composer Matthew Martin on a musical about Jacqueline Susann.
JOHN KERWIN, originally from Long Beach(Credit: Katja Bresch)
GIG He hosts a late-night talk show on DirecTV's Jewish Life channel.
HIS STORY Kerwin, who also grew up in the Briarwood section of Queens, started out doing stand-up comedy at Catch a Rising Star in New York and The Improv in Hollywood, where he was the house emcee. "Instead of just introducing Robin Williams or Jerry Seinfeld or Eddie Murphy, I would have them come out and start talking to them," Kerwin says. One night, a producer caught Kerwin on stage, and "The John Kerwin Show," which he's done for 14 years on JLTV, was born. Favorite guests have included Larry Hagman and David Carradine. His most memorable guest: Cloris Leachman, who opted for more than a peck when she asked Kerwin for a kiss.
WHAT'S NEXT To hopefully land his dream guest, Sarah Jessica Parker. "She's everything that you want in a great guest," he says, "effervescent, funny, smart, talented."
BROOKE MORIBER, 26, from Westhampton Beach(Credit: Fadil Berisha)
GIG She's a singer-songwriter who's also performed on Broadway.
HER STORY Moriber's career began in a big way -- she played young Cosette for six months in "Les Miserables" on Broadway. "They would measure you every week, and once you grew to a certain point, you were fired," she says. Since then, Moriber has had no problem finding work, both on TV ("As the World Turns," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") and in six more Broadway shows, including "The Threepenny Opera" in 2006 with her idol, Cyndi Lauper. Moriber will next perform songs from her first EP, "Fire," at Pianos NYC on May 18. "I'd like to become a pop star being able to also do Broadway shows. That's my dream," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT Moriber and her band will play at Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville on June 3, and she's just completed the short film "Off Track Betty."
MICHAEL RICIGLIANO JR., 43, of Locust Valley(Credit: Joe Trentacosta)
GIG His Off-Broadway play “A Queen for a Day” begins previews April 14.
HIS STORY He’s a lawyer by day, self-taught writer by night. “I read a couple of books on how to write a screenplay, and then I started writing some scripts and bought software for the final draft,” he says. “You write and you write, you find your own voice, and then it kind of works out from there.” His first effort was a screenplay for a 2010 short film about the mob called “Lily of the Feast” that he recently expanded into a feature-length movie starring Paul Sorvino and Troy Garity. “A Queen for a Day,” which opens May 3 at St. Clement’s Theatre, also deals with the mob and stars “Sopranos” actor Vincent Pastore.
WHAT'S NEXT He’s just finished his second play, “Phalen House,” about an Irish bed-and-breakfast in the Catskills.
MIKEY WAX, 28, originally from Syosset
GIG The singer-songwriter’s “You Lift Me Up” can be heard in promos for “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
HIS STORY Wax began writing songs when he was 8, but didn’t start performing until he attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He released his first record, “In Case I Go Again,” in 2009, and the music video, shot in Syosset, became a YouTube smash. “You Lift Me Up,” which he co-wrote with his brother, Jonathan, has been even bigger thanks to the Kardashian promos and Spotify. He’s touring now and plays Manhattan’s Rockwood Music Hall tomorrow night. “I’m taking a step from being a baby singer-songwriter to more of a mature singer-songwriter and playing prestigious venues,” he says.
WHAT'S NEXT More tour dates, and after that, who knows. “If I could just support myself making music and doing what I love, that would be great,” Wax says.
TANNER FLOOD, 11 of Eatons Neck(Credit: Chris Ware)
GIG He plays Jane Krakowski’s son in the Netflix sitcom “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
HIS STORY Tanner was 4 when he was signed by an agent after reciting Shel Silverstein’s “Acrobat” at his audition. Since then, Tanner has had roles in movies (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and TV (“30 Rock,” “Royal Pains”). In “Kimmy Schmidt,” he plays spoiled rich brat Buckley, who’s not above stealing or attacking co-star Tituss Burgess, dressed as Iron Man, with a bat. “I wondered sometimes what I would be like if I really was spoiled, and playing that role I got to find out,” Tanner says. “I also found out I’m pretty good at beating up people with a baseball bat and blowing up hospitals.”
WHAT'S NEXT This weekend he attends the Palm Beach International Film Festival for the premiere of “Living With the Dead.” “I have a big crying scene,” Tanner says: “My mom says she’s leaving forever, and I chase her down the road.”
RAYMOND JAMES MASON, 25, of West Babylon(Credit: KatieMarie Gorczynski)
GIG A trombonist with the Afrobeat band Antibalas, and he can be heard on the hit "Uptown Funk."
HIS STORY AMason's musical path began in third grade when he heard a teacher play "Ride of the Valkyries" on trombone. "I heard it as 'Kill the Wabbit,' " from the Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?" he says. "So I decided I wanted to play trombone." After graduating from New York University, his job playing in the orchestra for the Broadway musical "Fela!" led to his current gig with Antibalas. He's also performed with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Roots and Taylor Swift, and he's all over the radio dial playing his horn on the Mark Ronson-Bruno Mars smash "Uptown Funk."
WHAT'S NEXT He'll be playing with Antibalas at City Winery in Manhattan March 22 and in a salute to David Byrne and Talking Heads at Carnegie Hall March 23.
LANCELOT THEOBALD JR., of Hempstead(Credit: Marisol Diaz)
GIG Choreographer on the movie "At the Top of the Pyramid".
HIS STORY After failing to make cut following a tryout for the New England Patriots, Theobald turned to dance and won a scholarship to Bernice Johnson's Dance School in Jamaica. "When I went to school I realized I knew how to dance hip-hop and tap, but I didn't really know the other disciplines," Theobald said. He learned them quickly and has since worked with "Hairspray" actress Nikki Blonsky and choreographed the MTV series "Skins." "At the Top of the Pyramid," which he calls a cross between "Bring It On" and "Friday Night Lights," is the first film he's choreographed and involves some elaborate numbers including a party scene in which he had people dancing on tables. He also has a small role in the film.
WHAT'S NEXT Theobald will be acting in two more movies.
RYAN CASSATA, 21, from Bay Shore(Credit: Kris Lyseggen)
GIG He's a singer-songwriter who just released his eighth album.
HIS STORY Cassata, who now lives in San Francisco, started playing guitar at age 6 and by 14 was playing clubs like The Vibe Lounge and The Crazy Donkey. He also has opened for Karmin and Salt N Pepa, and won a battle of the bands that led to a gig at Vans Warped Tour in 2013. Though Cassata describes his music as a mix of "foot-stomping folk, political and love songs," his newest album is more rock and roll, he says. Cassata, who is transgender, has also played at numerous Pride Festivals, and was the focus of the acclaimed 2014 documentary "Songs for Alexis," which dealt with his relationship with his girlfriend.
WHAT'S NEXT He plays 89 North in Patchogue on April 26.
MARC PALMIERI, 44, of Melville(Credit: John Painz)
GIG His play "The Groundling" is at Manhattan's Axis Company through March 8.
HIS STORY Palmieri attended Wake Forest University on a baseball scholarship, but in his senior year turned to drama. As an aspiring actor in New York, he took a job coaching baseball at Chaminade High School in Mineola to supplement his income. Commuting on the train, he'd write down conversations into a series of sketches that became his first play, "Poor Fellas." He also acted in the 1997 indie movie "Too Much Sleep," wrote the screenplay for a 1998 Jennifer Love Hewitt movie "Telling You," and had a critical success with his play "Levittown." "The Groundling," a comedy set on Long Island, has elements of "Love's Labours Lost" and focuses on a troubled marriage. "I've also taught Shakespeare and that experience really informed the writing of this play," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT He's hoping the play will continue in another venue.
NICK FONDULIS, of Manorville(Credit: Paul Gregory)
GIG He can be heard in the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
HIS STORY Since graduating from Syracuse University, Fondulis has worked regularly including roles on "As the World Turns" and "30 Rock." "Tina Fey walked over to me and said 'Hey, Nick, I'm Tina. I thought, 'I know who you are,' but it made me feel like she accepted me on her level," he says. He recently played eight roles in "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at Chain Theatre in Long Island City, and lent his voice to Grand Theft Auto V, though the project was kept a secret to the actors. "All I knew was that the dialogue had to do with cars," he says. "When people asked me what I worked on, I could genuinely tell them I don't know."
WHAT'S NEXT He is in two more live radio plays at Chain.
MELANIE BROOK, 23, originally from Oceanside(Credit: Keith Sherman and Associates)
GIG She plays a repressed book club member in "50 Shades! The Musical Parody."
HER STORY While attending Wagner College in Staten Island, Brook got a role in "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding," an improv-driven comedy. The experience helped when she tried out for "50 Shades." "My character goes through a sexual revolution during this monologue in Act 2. At the callback, instead of the monologue, they gave me the beginning and said it's up to you to finish it," says Brook, who's in the touring company and joins the Off-Broadway production at the Elektra Theatre next month. Brook also headlined her own cabaret show last year at 54 Below after winning a contest the club sponsored. "A show like that is something I thought about for when I'm 70 and have an illustrious career. That's a really cool thing to have that at 22," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT To enjoy a long run in "50 Shades."
SARAH GAVILLA, 14, of Melville(Credit: Len Marks Photography)
GIG A dancer who just toured in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
HER STORY Sarah started dancing at 4 and studied at North Shore Studio of Dance in Huntington Station and Eglevsky Ballet school in Bethpage. She played Clara in North Shore Studio's production of "The Nutcracker" last year, so the school's director, former Rockette Danielle Kimmins, encouraged Sarah to audition for the role in the Radio City tour. She beat out about 200 girls and has loved traveling and being part of a professional ensemble. "The Rockettes are very supportive to me," she says. "When you're in a touring company, you're always together and just like one big family. ... We even set up a Christmas tree in the dressing room."
WHAT'S NEXT Sarah is taking a break after the tour, though she plans to try out for more shows. She's hoping for a career in ballet but doesn't rule out Broadway.