By Nicole Turso
Sitting at a table at the Sly Fox Inn in Fresh Meadows years ago, Rose Terranova was read her fortune—the teller spread cards out on the table, studied, paused and exclaimed, “You were supposed to be famous, what happened?” Terranova took those words to heart, and later put them into practice.
Terranova, of Maspeth, is no stranger to brushes with fame, having been a self-proclaimed “starving artist” as a singer, even making demo records for large companies including Columbia Records and working as a television personality for the Prayer Channel.
Her latest venture, perhaps closest to her heart and reminiscent of her two greatest passions—performance art and teaching—is an after school drama program for children opening next month. Over coffee at the Georgia Diner in Elmhurst, the fiery redhead recently chronicled her journey to the present and her non-profit business, including her many various, and sometimes eccentric, careers.
“I did a lot of praying because I didn’t have a clue as to what it was that I wanted to do with my life,” said Terranova, “I like to say I was a late bloomer.”
She worked as a bank teller, a bookstore clerk, even tried her hand at writing a musical comedy, but it was a dream one sleepy night that lead Terranova to a career which would span 25 years.
In the dream, Terranova remembered, a former employer who had passed away appeared across a large plaza filled with people. He led her into a building, which she recognized as her old elementary school and said, “This is where you’re supposed to be.”
“I woke up as if someone had hit me over the head with something,” she explained, “I could not shake this idea of teaching out of my brain.”
Terranova minored in secondary education in college eventually landing a position as a teacher at St. Adalbert’s School in Elmhurst. She spent 17 years educating middle school children and flexing her performing arts muscles as the director of the school’s theater group, Black Friars.
“It was the first job I ever had where I looked forward to waking up in the morning—to see those kids,” Terranova said, a gleam in her eye. “I was fortunate.”
Her love for teaching eventually lead Terranova to a position teaching sixth grade religion on television at The Prayer Channel in 1999. Throughout her eight years at the station, she co-produced four interactive series for children, never straying too far from the classroom—taking her shows to various schools to interview and teach children. “I always say teaching is like being on a stage,” she said, laughing.
Terranova left The Prayer Channel hoping to return to the classroom, but found that she would need to re-apply for certification. Crushed that she couldn’t resume her career immediately, Terranova began entertaining the idea of starting her own business. “I can do all of this, but why should I continue doing it for other people,” she said. “Let me start doing it for myself.”
It was May and Terranova had come to a crossroads. Facing unemployment, she was forced to decide whether to move out of New York City for a more favorable economic situation, or to take a chance.
She decided to stay in the city, and soon found that the risk would be worth the reward. With the support of the surrounding community, Terranova acquired space in one of vacant buildings on the Holy Cross Catholic School campus on 61st Street - which closed in 2005 along with a number of other Queens parochial schools - and applied to become a non-profit organization.
“Ms. Rose’s 2B Named Drama School” as it is being called in the interim, was certified as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization with the goal of involving children in all aspects of performance art, including behind the scenes work and on-stage, to develop leadership, cooperation and teamwork skills.
The after school program for students ages 7 to 17 consists of 10-week trimesters, with weekly classes and courses including character development, the importance of costume and make-up, set design, lighting and sound, and the role of stage manager. Students will also have the chance to show off what they’ve learned to family and friends at two performances - one holiday show and one at the end of the year.
For Terranova it is a dream realized. “My mother always used to say I would be a success in life if I left the world a little bit better for having passed this way, “ Terranova said, “Hopefully in this way, I will.” As for fame, Terranova has to disagree with her psychic connection. “Fame is an illusion—just a state of mind,” she concluded.
Ms. Rose’s 2B Named Drama School is at 56-01 61st Street in Maspeth. For details, call (718) 326-2467 or log on to missrosesdramaschool.org. Registration for fall courses ends the first week of September.