Natasha Partnoy, Class of 2018, was on the bus heading home from her Spanish class field trip when she received a phone call. The voice on the other end was unfamiliar but delivered some life-changing news: Natasha had been selected as a finalist for the National YoungArts Foundation Award for Excellence in Theater.
As the prestigious foundation’s highest award, Natasha was selected from a pool of applicants made up of thousands of talented young artists from across the country. The award not only makes her eligible for a cash award of up to $10,000, she will join the other 170 finalists for a week of master classes in Miami from Jan. 7 to 14.
The 37th Annual National YoungArts Week is a chance for these talented finalists to hone their craft while learning from some of the best performing and visual artists in the world. Natasha will share her work with the public during the weeklong program and will be evaluated for further award levels from the foundation.
The award also unlocks for Natasha a network of accomplished YoungArts alumni, who have gone on to become some of the greatest artists in their disciplines. High-profile YoungArts award winners include actresses Viola Davis and Kerry Washington, and recording artist Josh Groban.
This year’s finalists will mingle with past awardees, including Tony and Academy award-winning artists, at the culminating “Backyard Ball.” The ball is a chance for current finalists to network and share their passion for the arts with their role models and potential future colleagues.
“It’s cool to think that maybe one day we could be those people,” said Natasha, who has been doing theater since she was four years old, professionally since she was 10.
Natasha has played the role of Mary Poppins and Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz;” she even originated the lead part in a musical written by a Parker parent for the San Diego International Fringe Festival.
Natasha said her role in that musical, called “The Test,” was her favorite so far because she helped to create and develop the character.
“Anyone else doing that part will kind of be playing me. It was a unique experience and I hope to do more of it,” she said.
As Natasha prepares for YoungArts Week, she is simultaneously applying to Bachelor of Fine Arts programs in acting and musical theater on the East Coast and Midwest. After college, she plans to move to New York City to jumpstart her career in theater.
“It’s a hard life but I think I can do it. I’ve been working professionally already. I know how it works and I think I have what it takes,” said Natasha.
Her confidence, talent, and hard work have led her this far -- to the doorsteps of the National YoungArts Foundation. On top of earning the prestigious award, Natasha said she looks forward to meeting the other finalists next month in Miami.
“I’m excited to meet kids my age who are just as passionate as I am about musical theater, and who will probably be my colleagues for decades to come,” she said.