Liz Rubino teaches what she performs



Liz Rubino’s life as a performer embodies the definition of cabaret.

That’s a form of entertainment featuring music, song, dance, recitation or drama distinguished by the performance venue including a restaurant, pub or nightclub with a stage for performances. She’s received reviews of praise for her cabaret concerts and work in theater.

As a teacher, she has a goal of providing “emerging-artist training on community and professional levels.”

Because she performs what she teaches, Rubino brings a personal experience to her students. “I’m a working teacher who practices her art,” she said.

Her singing talent has created performing opportunities in New York, Florida and on the West Coast, leading to a traveling “gypsy” lifestyle. She returns to the Valley, where she operates Liz Rubino Studios at the Jewish Community Center, 505 Gypsy Lane.

“This is my life’s passion,” said 35-year-old Rubino of her multi-facted career performing and teaching. “This feeds my soul.”

The Austintown resident has ties to the Valley. She graduated from Fitch High School and studied voice and psychology at Ohio State University then finished a degree in theater at Youngstown State University. She earned a master’s degree in drama therapy at New York University. She’s a card-carrying member of Actors’ Equity Association and proud of it.

Currently, she’s finishing up work on a new CD, “Woman Under the Covers.”

“It’s opposite-gender songs by singers like Bing Crosby and Michael Jackson,” she said. Release is planned in April. “This album is dear to my heart,” she said. It’s being recorded under the supervision of Jack Ciarniello of Take Note Productions in Austintown. Her first CD was “Touch of the Moon.”

Rubino said she “grew up” at Youngstown Playhouse and Oakland Center for the Arts. She returned in 2011 to play Mama Rose in “Gypsy” at the Playhouse. She is a frequent performer at the Metropolitan Room in New York, which she describes as “a very old and respected venue,” and The Duplex, where comedy rules and is more contemporary. “In a cabaret venue, I’m myself. That makes you vulnerable,” she said.

At the JCC, she puts her talent and experience to work as a “teaching artist.” She started her studio some 22 years ago in her home; in 2013, she relocated to the JCC. There, she offers myriad youth and adult programs in voice, drama, drama therapy and performing arts. “I love to teach. I think it’s a way to give back,” Rubino said.

A student, Mikaela Kunelio, 18, takes private voice lessons from Rubino along with tap and jazz. She hopes to do musical theater. “Liz helps you grow. She has such energy,” Kunelio said.

Rubino said she appreciated how mentors throughout her career have helped and encouraged her, and she wants to do the same for her students.

Drama therapy is dear to her heart, she said. It’s relatively new in the Valley, Rubino said, adding she worked in drama therapy at Creative Alternatives of New York. “There’s value to it,” she said. What surprises her is that more adults signed up for drama than youths. “It’s a way of helping your life through art. It has restorative value,” Rubino said of the use of drama or theater as a way to achieve therapeutic goals. She works with a drama-therapy group at Park Vista.

Rubino nurtures talent in a variety of ways. Broadway 360 workshops take place throughout the year and focus on the audition process and all that entails. “It’s an intense three hours,” she said.

Broadway 360 also is a two-week summer camp for fifth- through 10th-graders that culminates in a performance; this year’s show will be “Little Mermaid.” Topics including costumes, dance, voice and directing are covered. The camp helps students put the package of voice and drama together.

Rubino said she believes that the performing arts help “form connections” among people who experience an emotional reaction as performers or audience members.

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