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Is there a future in show business for you?

MANSFIELD -- Even after 30 years in the entertainment industry, Peter Sklar still gets the same approach from parents who want to get their children into show business.

"It's the same preface and disclaimer," Sklar said during a telephone conversation from Westchester County, N.Y.

"They'll say, 'I'm not pushing my child, but ever since she was two weeks old we knew this was her dream and she dragged me here to see you.'

"Another item that a parent will immediately spring on me is how they can get an agent. I have to tell them they might want to spend a few years with their child training and getting a few things on their resume and not just run off with an agent just because your kid has a cute face," he said.

As a talent scout, Sklar's proteges have included Sarah Jessica Parker, Reese Witherspoon and Mischa Barton.

Sklar will make an appearance Friday at Richland Academy for a presentation aimed at teenagers and their parents: "So You Want to be a Performer..."

Another thing that hasn't changed for Sklar in his line of work is that successful, young performers have had personalities people liked and believed to be real.

"The people who have become successful are the ones who are open, who are genuine and are really happy and have good health and energy," he said. "The kids I usually interview are A-plus students, the most talented, intelligent and highest achievers in the nation. What nobody realizes is that they're the most unhappy, unhealthy and ultimately the most unemployable."

He said this is based on his experience as both a talent scout and as a Harvard graduate with a master's degree in education.

Sklar said the key to a young person's success in arts and entertainment is self-image and health. Casting directors and agents can see through the facades very quickly, he said.

"The people who sit behind the table are trying to decide whether viewers or audiences will like and believe you," he said. "If you're too unhappy, too unfocused or too unhealthy to open up and reveal who you are, they'll lose interest in you in less than a New York minute. No matter how many classes you've taken, how pretty your smile is, who you know or how long you keep trying, you're going nowhere."

He cited Sarah Jessica Parker as the most memorable example of someone being successful by "keeping it real."

"At 16, Sarah was always someone where what you saw was what you got," he said. "She was extremely perceptive, bright, funny and happy. She had a high energy level and never missed a thing. To this day, I still say stuff to other people she said to me back then and it will always get a few laughs."

nnarvaja@nncogannett.com 419-521-7249


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Originally published November 7, 2006

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If you go

  • Who: Peter Sklar, "So You Want to be a Performer..."

  • Where: Richland Academy, 75 N. Walnut St.

  • When: 7 p.m. Friday

  • Cost: Free, but reservations are required. Call 419-522-8224 for details.

    This presentation is for teenagers interested in entertainment and performance arts. Children younger than 6 will not be allowed. Children younger than 18 are required to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

  • On the Web: www.petersklaronline.com

    News Journal staff report

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