‘Hartford’s Got Talent!’ opens summer of auditions and workshops and will end with a Bushnell show in the spring of 2023

·3 min read

Singers, dancers, musicians, stand-up comedians, actors, jugglers, martial artists and other talent have an opportunity to hone their performance skills and get feedback from professionals as a part of “Hartford’s Got Talent!”

The upcoming showcases were announced Monday morning at The Bushnell. The theater will host a special performance in the spring of 2023, featuring the winners of a series of talent showcases over this summer and fall.

There have been previous events called “Hartford’s Got Talent!” or “Connecticut’s Got Talent” over the years, and a New London talent show has been running for over a decade. This is a brand new 501c3 nonprofit arts organization conceived and initially funded by local philanthropist Bob Patricelli and run by Hartford’s Got Talent! CEO Joe Young.

Patricelli gave “Hartford’s Got Talent!” the $200,000 needed for the first phase of operations through his Robert & Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation.

Young, a well-known Hartford cartoonist and longtime arts advocate, says the project began when he and Patricelli were “having breakfast, thinking about what we could do to help the Brother Carl Hardrick Institute [for Violence Prevention]. I told Bob ‘All I know is the arts, and I know that the arts can help in getting kids off the street and involving them in their community.’”

The organization’s initial community partners include the Charter Oak Cultural Center, The Boys and Girls Club of Hartford and The Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center. Those organizations will all hold auditions and showcases this summer specifically for youth from Hartford and neighboring towns.

In the fall, showcases will be held at Hartford locations yet to be determined, and the eligibility will be widened to all ages. Young says he expects to see community members in their 70s or 80s participating.

In the spring of 2023, over a dozen winners from the various showcases will perform a scripted show with the theme of community set in Hartford at The Bushnell, Young says. The show will be created based on the talents of the performers. The date of the spring Bushnell production has yet to be confirmed.

The Bushnell will not just provide the stage for the culminating “Hartford’s Got Talent!” event in the spring, it will provide mentorship and talent development opportunities. Some of this assistance will take the form of master classes for some of the showcase winners.

Auditions have begun, and Young says there’s an unpredictable range of talents. Young saw one performer reel off the names of all 50 states in under half a minute. Young says that visual artists might find a way to try out as well, mentioning the possibility of live sand painting activities or something he used to do himself: cartooning while blindfolded.

Patricelli says he expects that the first year for “Hartford’s Got Talent!” will require $300,000 to $400,000 in funding. His foundation has already provided half that amount.

“We hope to attract other participants, but I am prepared to put in more if needed,” Patricelli says.

Patricelli says the organization has been meeting at least once a week for months. “There are at least a dozen people working full-time on this, and Joe has the experience.”

He says he looks forward to attending some of the showcases and auditions — “I love doing that” — but laughs when asks if he might audition himself. “It was my father who had the artistic talent.”

Patricelli, who serves on the board of The Bushnell and was its chairman for six years, says “we’ve been talking internally for years about a production like this, but there’s tremendous effort associated with a talent show.”

It is important to him that “Hartford’s Got Talent!” happens every year.

“It’s not only about the talented kids and adults who never got a shot or about community building,” Patricelli says. “This can also be about giving Hartford a brand. There’s a tremendous performing arts infrastructure in Hartford. Hartford ought to be the performing arts capital of the Northeast.”

For more information about “Hartford’s Got Talent!”, go to https://hartfordsgottalent.org/.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at carnott@courant.com.