By Kristina Houck
It was an ordinary day when Rancho Santa Fe resident Celeste Hudson met who would become an extraordinary friend. While standing in line at a local FedEx, Hudson met Del Mar resident Arline “A.J.” Genis, and the two talked about the entertainment business.
Seven months later, Hudson and Genis are now collaborating on a talent competition-turned-television-show and an off-Broadway production.
“We’ve only known each other seven months, but I feel like it’s been 70 years,” said 80-year-old Genis.
“We started talking and we clicked right away,” said 38-year-old Hudson. “After about a week or so of working with her and talking with her, I asked her to be an advisor on my television show. She grew up in show biz and she’s so knowledgeable of what’s going on.”
Married to a choreographer and with her own passion for the entertainment business, Hudson, a commodity broker, had an idea for a talent competition with a new twist.
Genis has connections in show business. Born in New York, Genis grew up a self-proclaimed “show business brat.” Her father was the road manager in the Big Band era for Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. She appeared in a number of television shows, including “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Lone Ranger,” and worked alongside actors such as Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando in feature films. All were “bit parts,” Genis said.
The two decided to combine their experience and interests to launch “Show Your Talent,” a five-week talent competition, which is set to debut March 16 at Spreckels Theatre in San Diego. During the competition, 75 local singers, dancers and rappers will compete for the title and a $5,000 prize.
Hudson came up with the concept as a way to give back to the local community.
“I was looking for a stream of revenue to be given,” said Hudson, a mother of four. “I’m big on giving back.”
Born in New York, Hudson was raised in Belize in Central America, where her father served as a foreign missionary.
“That’s where that seed of giving back was planted and given,” Hudson said.
A portion of the show’s ticket sales will benefit Promises2Kids, a San Diego-based organization that supports foster children, and North Coast Repertory Theatre.
Proceeds will also help produce “Realities,” an off-Broadway comedy that spoofs reality television.
“We were just having a conversation and mocking the different reality shows when we came up with the idea,” said Hudson, who admitted she watches “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“It’s based on the fraudulent premise of a realty show,” said Genis, who admitted she watches “Dancing with the Stars” and “Survivor.”
“There’s not a bit of truth in any one. They’re all scripted, but people watch it.”
Although the show is currently being written, Genis said she has already secured a theater, Westside Theatre, located at 407 West 43rd St. in New York City, where “Becoming Dr. Ruth” is currently playing. The pair plans to launch their comedy in June or July.
“We hope they [the audience] take away joy,” Genis said. “And if they’re laughing for 90 minutes, they will take away joy.
“Comedy takes us out of our misery, out of our pain, and puts us in a place of acceptance.”
In addition to giving back, reality television also inspired “Show Your Talent.”
“When I watch these shows, I see that they’re given choreography to do, but can they create their own choreography? For me, that’s true artistry,” Hudson said. “You have the talent, but where does your creativity come from? Does it come from something you see, or does it come from within?”
“Show Your Talent” participants will be required to compose their own music and create their own dance routines. After a winner is crowned in San Diego, Hudson plans to take “Show Your Talent” to Los Angeles, and then across the country. She and Genis are pitching the competition as a television show to three major networks.
To promote the San Diego competition, there will be a flash mob Dec. 14 at Westfield Mission Valley mall, choreographed by Hudson’s husband, Leon. Hudson’s 15-year-old daughter wrote the theme song for the show. She and her group, The Young Divas, recorded the track.
Although she is still working as a broker part-time, Hudson is spending most of her time on the productions. She hopes to eventually transition to the entertainment business full-time.
“I insist on it,” Genis said.