For the past three years area residents from all over the county have gathered for Chautauqua's Got Talent to showcase their ability, compete for prizes and win glory.
Big Time Productions and The Post-Journal will continue that tradition with the fourth annual county-wide talent competition that begins on Monday, Feb. 18, and runs each Monday through March 18 at 7 p.m.
According to Angelo Giuffre, event organizer for Big Time Productions, the program has been growing each year since it began in 2010.
Pictured below, Emma Wirsen accepts her prize from Matt Warren at The Spire of Jamestown in 2012. Wirsen won the third annual Chautauqua’s Got Talent competition. Big Time Productions and The Post-Journal will present the fourth annual competition beginning on Monday, Feb. 18, and running each Monday through March 18 at 7 p.m. Auditions for this year’s competition will begin on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at The Spire Theater, 317 E. Third St. in Jamestown.
P-J file photos by Scott Shelters
"It's completely different every year," said Giuffre. "The production gets better every year, and so do the sound and lights. Plus, the talent changes, and that's really what makes the show different. But, it's hard to say what we'll do this year because the production team doesn't really meet until the show starts, and we usually throw in a few surprises or wildcards during the show."
Live auditions will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at The Spire Theater, 317 E. Third St. in Jamestown. Video auditions are also being accepted this year and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the past, the competition has seen everything from singers, dancers, dance groups, bands and comedians and more. The performers will compete for at least $500 cash, a website and a promotional press kit.
"Chautauqua's Got Talent is different from other competitions because we accept any kind of talent that Chautauqua can spit out," said Giuffre. "I've seen people who can play the turkey baster. And, I would like to see some of the other more unique talents such as magicians, jugglers, gymnasts or anything else that our community has to offer."
The auditions are open to anyone wishing to try out. Close family members may attend. Giuffre recommends bringing whatever props or items are necessary for a performance such as karaoke accompaniment for singers and music for dancers. Bands can play unplugged. Auditions are held on a first-come, first-served basis. Those interested in auditioning can pre-register by emailing email@example.com.
"All we really need is a sample of what you can do," said Giuffre. "There's no audience at the auditions besides friends and family who are there to support their contestant. Auditions are held right on stage so you do get to experience the stage once before you perform in front of an audience. And, we won't leave until everyone gets a chance."
Past Chautauqua's Got Talent winners include Shannon Nixon, who now produces many local theatrical productions including "Shannon's Kids Series"; Julie Cotter, a Maple Grove High School choral teacher and voice instructor for Infinity Performing Arts who has since appeared in several Lucille Ball Little Theater productions; and Emma Wirsen, an 11-year-old who bested 19 other contestants in last year's competition and now has her own website at emmawirsen.com.
Back again this year as host is local performer and radio personality Matt Warren.
"Matt Warren has been around since the beginning and is a good friend of Big Time Productions and the Spire Theater," said Giuffre. "Matt started out as a judge, and after hearing his advice each week, I thought he'd be a great host. Everyone loved him last year. He has a great speaking and singing voice and is such a warm-hearted guy that I think it's great for the contestants."
Judges for this year's competition have not yet been selected. But past judges, some of whom could appear again this year, include Giuffre and his wife, Ylsa, CEO of Big Time Productions; Jamie Lee, Anne Ecklund, Jillianne Dolce Higgs, Stephanie Fisher and Steve Davis. However, the judges are there mostly for entertainment and feedback purposes as the winner is chosen by audience vote. In addition to the judges' advice, Giuffre hopes to expand on this year's competition by creating what he calls a "Week of Mentors." So, he is also asking for local performers who'd like to get involved to help mentor some of the contestants.
Tickets to each night are $6 pre-sale or $8 at the door, and a pass for all five nights is available for $25. The tickets can be purchased at The Labyrinth Press Co., 12 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown. For more information call 450-7357, visit spiretheater.org or search for "Chautauqua's Got Talent" on Facebook.