Tag Archives: actress

Star of Queens: Debra Toscano, actress, singer and voice teacher

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Debra Toscano

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Debra Toscano is originally from Long Island but has resided in Bayside for about 15 years. She comes from a musical background with a father who worked as a music teacher and she had a lot of early exposure to the music industry. She has one older sister, who is also in the music industry as a piano player and drummer.

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND CAREER: Toscano is a professional singer and actress who works as a music teacher in Frank Toscano Music School in Astoria, which is owned by her father. He has owned the school for over 50 years, and Toscano currently teaches there as a vocal coach. She is also working on movie called “Bohemia,” which will feature her own original screenplay and begins filming in January.

CONTRIBUTION TO THE COMMUNITY: Toscano brightens the day of hospital patients by visiting with the cast of her last film project, a crime drama dubbed “Snitches.” They created a program called Snitches Give Back to visit both children and adults in local hospitals, talking with patients, signing autographs, and giving out headshots to bring cheer into the lives of patients.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Toscano says her biggest challenge as an actress is getting consistent work and locking in a gig. While acting has a glamorous image to those outside the profession, finding good acting parts and doing good work can be difficult for performers.
“When you’re in one gig you’re always looking to secure the next one,” she said. “Booking the work is always the biggest challenge to keep yourself motivated.”

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: Toscano is most proud of singing the national anthem for major sporting events including games for the New York Jets and Giants, and the U.S. Open.
“That’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done because it’s a huge honor to sing the national anthem.”


Voice of Dora the Explorer, Queens native talks new show

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bonnie Osborne/Nickelodeon

Even though Dora the Explorer is getting older and making a move to a big city, the Queens native and voice behind the popular cartoon is not going anywhere. 

Fátima Ptacek has been the voice of Nickelodeon’s 7-year-old “Dora the Explorer” since 2010 and will now also be the one behind 10-year-old Dora in “Dora and Friends: Into the City!”

L-R: Alana, Emma, Dora, Kate, Naiya, Pablo in Dora and Friends: Into the City! (Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon)

“She’s stunning, I’m so excited,” said Ptacek about the older Dora who will premiere on Monday, Aug. 18 on Nickelodeon. “Now that she’s in the city, she can identify with city kids.”

The 13-year-old actress says growing up and still living in Queens helps her understand her new role more because she can identify with being a city kid.

“I’m very proud to be living in Queens, it’s one of the coolest places I know,” Ptacek said. “I know it like the back of my hands. I make sure to brag about it to anyone.”

She said she loves living in the borough because of its diversity and food options.

“I’m a total foodie,” Ptacek said. “What’s great is right where I live. We basically have every nationality’s cuisine.”

In “Dora and Friends: Into the City!”, Dora moves to a city named “Playa Verde” and finds a new group of friends who embark on explorations with her including riding the subway, and going to school and parties. There is also a lot more music in this series, with a “pop-feel to it,” according to Ptacek.

Along with the new show, the Emmy-award winning series “Dora the Explorer” will also still air.

“I’ve really loved growing up with Dora and I am so lucky to be the first voice of this [new] show,” said Ptacek, who hopes both shows continue on for a long time. “I want my kids to be able to watch the show just how I did.”

Along with being the voice behind Dora, Ptacek has also performed on stage and starred in films, such as “The Rebound” with Catherine Zeta-Jones, and television shows such as “Saturday Night Light” and “Sesame Street,” where she was able to work alongside Michelle Obama.

She also serves as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, youth ambassador for the Latino Commission on AIDS and volunteers for foundations such as the SAG Foundation BookPALS program.

“Dora and Friends: Into the City!” premieres on Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon.



Queens kid Lauren Kelly juggling school and acting

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Ever since Lauren Kelly could talk, her family knew she’d be an actress. The blonde- haired toddler with the big blue eyes loved to be the center of attention and act as different characters. Everyone she met saw the potential she had to be an amazing actress and bring her bright and funny personality to the stage.

She began attending drama school when she was nine years old, so her parents weren’t surprised when Kelly wanted to audition in front of an agent to help her book acting jobs.

Her first audition, she said, was nerve-wracking.

“I was so young, but I wasn’t naïve. I knew that I wouldn’t get every part I auditioned for,” Kelly said.

She landed her first television appearance that same year in a Chuck E. Cheese commercial, which she continued to appear in for years to come.

When high school time came, Kelly, as well as her parents, faced a huge decision. While she was accepted into the Professional Performing Arts School and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts for acting — both of which have been frequented by countless famous actors and actresses — she chose to go to Archbishop Molloy High School instead.

“While I wanted to be an actress, I had to be practical. My parents sat me down and we talked about how education always came first,” she said.

Nevertheless, she continually juggled auditions, roles, and her school work while maintaining a high average.

To expand her resume for landing jobs, Kelly also learned how to play the piano and taught herself how to play the guitar.

“I want to be able to be versatile and have an opportunity to play more parts. That’s easier to do when you can do more than just act,” Kelly said.

She’s also taken on singing lessons in her busy schedule and has performed at her school countless times.

Throughout high school Kelly landed many minor roles, including both a My Little Pony and a Walmart commercial, but within the past year she booked major roles in “Law and Order: SVU” as the daughter of a killer and in “Blue Bloods” as a mischief-seeking friend of the protagonist.

She will be attending St. Joseph’s College in the Bronx in the fall on a scholarship, but intends to continue her acting career.

“I chose the college for many reasons, but the fact that it was only a train ride away from the city was a major selling point. I can take the train there for auditions whenever I need to, which makes it a lot easier for me to act and go to school,” Kelly noted.

So what’s the next step for the budding actress? A movie role, she said.