By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Visually impaired residents of South Florida benefit from free talking books available free at area libraries. But how do these specialized books and magazines come to life?
Volunteers read and record these aids at Insight for the Blind, an organization whose mission is to help improve the quality of life for blind and visually impaired children and adults by promoting literacy and learning and aiding in appreciation for reading by producing recorded books, magazines and articles.
Serendipity apparently stepped in when Insight for the Blind CEO Matt Corey was thinking about conducting a fundraiser for the group. He decided to ask for help from Shari Upbin, a Boca Raton woman whose extensive background in theater, stage performance and work as an independent producer, are well known in New York and Palm Beach County. The pair, after all, are friends, and Matt has provided the lighting work for many of Shari’s local shows.
When Matt popped the question – “Will you produce a fundraising show for us?” – Shari’s answer wasn’t “yes” or “no.” It was “when” and “where.”
After a modicum of consideration, she chose the Pompano Beach Cultural Center at 50 Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach, as the venue for a “dazzling evening of entertainment to benefit Insight for the Blind.”
The longtime performer who began dancing on stage at age 3, who performed in talent shows until age 11 and who earned her Actors Equity card by age 13 is directing “Hollywood Live!” featuring an all-star cast of notable local performers and showcasing what Shari calls “some of the most beloved songs from the Silver Screen from the 1940s on.”
The show that Shari Upbin has staged in New York and South Florida will enthrall the audience at the Pompano performance venue on Oct. 1. Red carpet opening at 6:30 p.m.; show begins at 7:45 p.m.
For this event, she’s tapped a who’s who of top area theater entertainers to vocalize a variety of familiar tunes. Scheduled to perform are Jeffrey Bruce, Lindsey Corey, Laura Hodos, Conor Walton, Amy Tanner, Mark Sanders and Sandi Stock, with musical and band direction by Caryl Fantel, Roy Fantel and Rupert Ziawinksi.
“Hollywood Live features a wealth of songs and juicy stories,” explained Upbin. “We will be recreating classic clips from famed MGM musicals and sharing some fascinating tinsel town tales as well. The event will be the perfect opportunity for the audience to experience a spectacular evening while supporting one of the most worthwhile organizations.”
Proceeds will allow Insight for the Blind to continue promoting literacy within the visually impaired community through the recording of Talking Books, a program of the Library of Congress.
How does Corey feel? “We are thrilled to present this star-studded event as a way to increase awareness and support for our organization.”
Daughter of a writer for iconic comedian Jack Benny, Shari has produced and directed in New York and regionally: Vincent, the Passions of the Artist Van Gogh, Danny Kaye & Sylvia, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret and Jacques Brel. She also won best director for her production of Side by Side by Sondheim.
In Florida, she directed Confessions of a Jewish Shiksa, Dancing on Hitler’s Grave at the Kravis Center, Women’s Minyan by Naomi Ragen and Door to Door by James Sherman at the West Boca Theatre Co.
She is immediate past president of the National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL) in Boca, an organization that promotes talented young musicians through competitions and scholarships.
Tickets for Hollywood Live! are $100 or $150 for preferred seating and can be purchased at www.ccpompano.org or 954-545-7800