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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Catch a Rising Star

Mark Allen was born to perform. And he is looking to put his vast stage experience to good use as a finalist in the 2012 Rising Star Emerging Performing Artist Award Competition on March 24. It takes place at the Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, Howard Community College, Columbia, MD. This event is part of the 15th Annual Celebration of the Arts Gala in Howard County, a fundraiser for the 31 year-old Howard County Arts Council.

Mark started performing as a child, and when he was a 12 year-old, he performed at his church in Louisville, KY. While he attended Youth Performing Arts High School, also in Louisville, he focused on Vocal Performance and Musical Theater. He went on to spend two years at the University of Evansville (IN), majoring in Vocal Performance and taking Ballet.

His professional career began at the age of 16 working at an amusement park in Michigan. Since then, he has performed on stages across the globe. “I had a blast touring France and Belgium with a revue-show in my teens, studied and performed stunt work at a movie studio in Arizona, and played some incredible roles like Zorro and Batman,” Mark said proudly. He appeared in several operas, including Gianni Schicci, Dido & Aneas, Hand of Bridge and Samuel.

Mark Allen has since been in several musicals, including the coveted role of Mark in Rent, Once on This Island, Working, A Chorus Line, L'il Abner, Sophisticated Ladies, and Damn Yankees. Mark’s currently working on Next To Normal and is gearing up for a production of The Last Five Years in late summer. He also performed at Six Flags and had a two-year stint in the DC Cowboys dance troop, which had been a popular feature of Capital Pride. His local venues have included the Laurel Mill Playhouse, Toby's Dinner Theater and Red Branch Theater.

The Anne Arundel resident was selected to be one of nine finalists in the 2012 Rising Star Emerging Performing Artist Award Competition among 60 performers ages 18-35 representing a wide range of disciplines. Since some of Mark’s stage work has taken place in Howard County theaters, he qualified for this prestigious competition.

“There are so many different disciplines competing for this honor,” Mark explained. “You've got dancers, and opera singers, musical theater singers and instrumentalists. The breadth and variety of the talent is so wide-spread it makes the competition that much tougher.

“I considered entering under the opera category, given that is my training and original background, but I wanted to pursue the musical theatre genre because it has such a mass appeal and it has a unique emotional element to the style. It can be very challenging in opera to connect to your audience with more than the beauty of your voice, but for me, musical theatre provides more stylistic freedom and a more expressive pallet of colors to choose from.”

The winner is selected by the vote of audience members and receives a cash award of $5,000 on stage that night. “This competition goes beyond that and is very much an honor,” Mark points out. “Winning this is something that lives on your resume for life, no matter where you go or what stage you grace. To be placed on the same stage with these other incredible finalists is simultaneously humbling and inspirational. Of course, I hope the audience chooses me for that honor, but this is one tough competition, so it's anyone's guess. From what I've seen, any of the finalists is winning material.”

Mark, 33, regards his work in musical theatre as a passionate hobby. The tours, travel and schedules have taken a toll on him physically to some extent. He currently works as an Account Executive for CBS Radio, 94.7 Fresh FM, which reaches Baltimore.

But music and theatre remain a big part of Mark’s life. “One of the things I have really wanted to do is to start focusing on my own original music. If this huge honor does fall my way, I would really like to use the award to jump start some original composition work, which would hopefully lead to my own album.”

This competition will help Mark on that path. “To entertain someone is to take them by the hand and lead them through an emotional journey, guiding them through your character's journey and experience. At the end of the night, I hope the audience was willing to let me take them on that journey.”

As for the competition on March 24, Mark is pumped up. “I plan on going out on that stage and giving the audience 110 percent of my voice and my acting. I really want the audience to be moved.”

For ticket information, please visit here.

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