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Actors and Writers Book Club visits Buffalo, NY

A cast of stars descends on Lafayette High School

Students get a treat in event to promote storytelling, reading

News Staff Reporter

It's not often that high school students get to spend a morning picking the brains of an Emmy award-winning writer, a critically acclaimed novelist and a TV star who has appeared on the hit series "30 Rock."

Clearly, it wasn't your run-of-the-mill morning at Lafayette High School on Friday.

Screenwriter Tom Fontana, novelist Thomas Kelly and actor Dean Winters held court in the library of the West Side school. It was part of an ongoing outreach effort by the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation to encourage reading and promote the craft of storytelling.

About 50 students received some sage advice from the trio.

Tenacity, being willing to start at the bottom and practicing one's craft on a daily basis were among the tips served up during an event that was billed by the school district as a "celebrity workshop."

Changing technology has made it possible for budding filmmakers to snare attention regardless of where they live, said Fontana, a Buffalo native who has written and produced television series that include "St. Elsewhere," "Oz" and "Homicide: Life on the Street." He told his captivated audience that there are "enormous opportunities in Buffalo.

"You can get a camera. You can write a story. You can get some actors. You can shoot a film," Fontana said. "It can become a calling card for you to get people to pay attention to you."

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Lafayette High School Students Host Celebrity Workshop

Juniors at Lafayette High School enjoyed a workshop today, Friday, February 3rd, with a nationally known writer and producer, an author and an actor.

The celebrities came to Buffalo’s Lafayette High School as part of an educational outreach program through the Actors and Writers Book Club of the Writers Guild America East (WGAE) Foundation. The rest is a Buffalo story; writer and producer Tom Fontana is from Buffalo, his parents graduated from Lafayette, and he attended Buffalo State College... the same as Mayor Byron Brown, who he has become friends with. When it came time for novelist Thomas Kelly, the chair of the book club, to choose a school to visit, Fontana steered Kelly toward Brown, who in turn steered him to the Buffalo Public Schools.

After a quick trip to the “Wall of Fame” to see his father’s picture, Fontana, the son of 1942 Lafayette High graduates Charles and Marie (Internicola), and his friends made their way to the 2nd floor library to meet with students.

Joining Kelly and Fontana was Dean Winters, an actor who stars as Ryan O’Reily on HBO’s Oz and Tina Fey’s boyfriend on 30 Rock. Winters read a passage of The Great Gatsby, the students’ current literature assignment. Winters shared his thoughts on reading with the students, saying it was a necessary evil until he was 14 years old. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby hooked him, Winters said, and then he went right on to Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Winters graciously answered a few questions about the craft of acting (and Angelina Jolie), but for the most part, he deferred to the writers, Kelly and Fontana, saying “these guys are the geniuses.” Winters stressed the constant need to practice and expand one's craft.

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