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Chatsworth Teacher Gives Students Push to Stardom

November 19, 1987|TOM WALDMAN | Waldman is a North Hollywood free-lance writer.

However, the drama coach insists that he is not in the business of running a factory for Hollywood. "I don't like to be a Fame West," he said, referring to the well-known New York performing arts high school popularized in a movie and later a television series.

Carrelli, who has spent the past 32 years teaching theater, loved the work long before any of his students went on to stardom.

When he was in his early 20s, Carrelli wanted to be an actor. But he quickly decided that teaching youths about the history and magic of the theater was far more interesting. The only acting Carrelli has done lately was playing the lead in an anti-litter public service commercial.

Carrelli is especially pleased when former students who have not gone on to become actors come back and tell him how much they enjoyed his classes. "I like to turn out people who are going to be confident housewives, lawyers and who appreciate live theater," he said.

Bell believes that Carrelli's ability to build a special relationship with his students is largely responsible for the high quality of Chatsworth productions. There is an affection and cheery informality evident. "We are really good friends," said Koch. "We get in fights all the time, swear in front of each other."

'Everyone Works Hard'

But Carrelli can also be demanding. Melissa Kievman, a junior, said he holds students responsible for taking care of accounting, art direction and set construction. "Everyone works hard," she said.

Carrelli likes his students to see theater in a larger context then simply high school productions. A couple of times per year, he and a number of students go downtown to attend a major show. In the past, Carrelli has taken groups to London, New York, Paris, Greece and Hong Kong. Kramer recalls a high school trip to London and Stratford-on-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare. "We saw play after play," she said.

It's because of experiences like these that Kramer, Winningham and others recall Carrelli as fondly as he recalls them.

"He made high school for me," said Berger.

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