Though funding for local school arts initiatives has been on an upswing, Westchester districts—as in counties across the country—have been forced to implement cuts to creative programs in recent years. That’s all the more reason why Archbishop Stepinac High senior and White Plains resident Christian Prato represents the impact that music, drama and writing education can have in encouraging kids to pursue fields outside of more conventional academics.
Prato, 18, was selected as this year’s winner of Westchester Broadway Theatre’s annual Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship (worth $1,000), which is granted each year to a college-bound Stepinac student who—as determined by school vice principal Frank Portanova—has contributed outstanding work to the theater arts. The prize’s namesake was himself a Stepinac alum, former Broadway Theatre public-relations director, and actor/writer/producer who died unexpectedly in 1992 at the age of 37.
Speaking to how his pupil’s directorial acumen earned an association with Fitzimmons’ legacy, Portanova extols that, “As a director, it is uncanny to find a student with whom you can engage in such serious and thoughtful discussions about staging, design, motivation, [and] characterization,” adding that Prato “commits himself with confidence to the entire process” and even “greedily devours the criticism because it is his sincere desire to become a better director.”
Prato didn’t pursue the theater in earnest until his sophomore year at Stepinac, but from that point onward, he’s had a hand as Portanova’s assistant director for every play the school’s staged. Most recently, Christian took the helm as director for Stepinac Theater Lab’s inaugural production, 12 Angry Men. Although even now he can recall the night before his first-ever show, sharing, “I opened up the playbill and saw that I was credited as Assistant Director. I asked Mr. Portanova in shock, ‘Did I actually help direct the show?’ From there on, I was inspired and have built my passion for directing.”
Prato accepts his award this evening on the Broadway Theatre stage, and will begin his path to the Great White Way while attending DePaul University in Chicago this fall.