South Florida actors try for stardom on Broadway in New York City

NEW YORK - Entertainers from South Florida are in New York City fighting for their chance at stardom.

Broadway in New York City's Times Square is the epicenter of acting, dancing and singing.  It is paved with blinking bulbs, glitzy marquis and the thousands of actors competing on the treadmill of tryouts.

A subway ride away, in Queens, New York, 30-year-old Kristina Fernandez shares a small two-bedroom with a roommate.  The actress and dancer spent their childhood in Jupiter, Florida.

"This was my dance studio growing up," explained Fernandez , popping in a DVD of her dancing and singing on stage at age 8.

Fernandez got her first career breakthrough in musical theater at an audition her junior year at Florida State University.

"And I was like, oh, sure, like I'll go in for it, but there is no way I'm gonna get it.  And then I got it!" she said.

Fernandez has had parts in Broadway shows "Wicked," "Fosse" and "In the Heights."

A train ride away, in Long Island, New York, Bettina Mangiaracina from Boca Raton is on set for a movie short.  The movie currently has two working titles, "Castletown" and "For Anabela."

"For this production, it's been a blast.  I'm having the time of my life, it's been so much fun," said Mangiaracina.

In a year and a half, Mangiaracina has built a resume as an actress, guest on television shows like "Forensic Files," and star of the feature-length film "Bullycam."

For an actress in New York, for every callback and job booked, there are dozens or even hundreds of times they are told "no."

Before eventually being cast for "In the Heights," Fernandez says she was turned down.

"Originally, when they were casting the Broadway company, I probably went in about ten times, kept going in, dancing and singing, and reading sides, and singing and dancing," she said.

That's when, she says, she received a call from a casting director who told her, "They love you.  Like, you can be 99% sure that you can be in the original company of this show on Broadway.  And I was like, oh my God, this is amazing. I went to Wicked and I was telling everyone, this is going to happen, this is crazy," she explained.

Ultimately, however, the show decided to go a different way, and she was denied the job.

"I was bummed, I was really bummed, you know?" she recalled.

Mangiaracina has had similar experiences.  She fell in love with a character and felt good about the audition and subsequent callback. 

"I did, I thought, great at the callback and I was like, I have it.  It's in my pocket.  And you shouldn't think like that, but I just did, I felt so strongly that I was gonna get it," she explained.

It was weeks before she learned the casting director had picked someone else for the role.

"It was tough because you go on so many auditions.  I just thought that it was gonna happen.  And then I just really loved the character," she said.

New York is also a long way from Florida in many ways.  In addition to changes in weather and transportation, the people, place and living conditions can be a switch from Boca Raton or Jupiter.

"You don't notice people, you don't notice if it's a sunny day or a dark day because there are buildings so high above you, you don't take it in as much as you can in a Florida-like environment," explained Fernandez.

Mangiaracina shares her 500 square foot apartment with a roommate for $2200 a month. 

"It's not big," she laughed.  "It's like a studio alcove.  But it's what you got to do."

In her small space, she is constantly recording and submitting auditions and sending her acting reel to casting directors.

"In this industry, sometimes if you don't answer within the hour, you miss the opportunity.  And that's happened before," she said.

Fernandez, while a trained and working dancer, is now approaching a new goal of becoming an actress.

"I just know that it is going to work out in the end, because, it has to, you know?" she said.

For actresses in New York City, there is no measure of when someone has "made it," because without the reality of perseverance, no dream will survive.

Tune in Monday, February 13 as NewsChannel 5 features another actor from South Florida who is trying for his big break.

Steven Spielberg' new show "SMASH" airs on NewsChannel 5 every Monday at 10 p.m.  The show is the story of Broadway hopefuls fighting for success.


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