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Meet Nazareth's "Whiz Kid" Madison Cerniglia

This week’s "Whiz Kid" finds success on stage and in film.

Madison Cerniglia’s parents assumed their daughter would be an athlete, because of their past successes in athletics. Madison, 13, had different ideas.

According to Madison, she was enrolled in acting classes about seven years ago.

“I told my mom I’d love [acting classes],” Madison said.

Adds her mom, Deb Cerniglia, “We put her in acting class when she was 6, and the rest is history."

To date, Madison has appeared in an episode of “Law and Order: SVU" -- she played the part of a little girl victimized by crime -- as well as short films, commercials, voice-overs, and stage productions both in the Lehigh Valley and New York City. This year, she had a minor role in the movie “Damsels in Distress.”

“Hard work pays off,” Madison explained, adding that she bought herself an iPhone with the money she made acting.

Madison currently has the lead role in the production of “Annie" -- a role that Madison calls “the epitome of lead roles.”

Like most actresses, however, Madison hopes to land a major movie role. She has a manager in New York, and often goes to 30 to 40 auditions before she gets her next job, according to her mother. The mother-daughter duo are often in the Big Apple four times a week -- and then there are times when Madison will go a month before her next audition.

“She misses out on a lot, but she loves it,” Deb said of her daughter's love for acting. “It’s definitely one of those things you have to be dedicated to.”

Adds Madison, “I definitely can’t commit to anything else, but I don’t mind. Acting is my life. I’m juggling both [“Annie” and auditions] and having a blast.”

When Madison is home, she takes voice lessons with Jeannette Sommons in Bath and acting lessons at the Pennsylvania Youth Theater in Bethlehem. When she's in New York, Madison stops by a studio for dance lessons and practices her lines with an acting coach before an audition.

Madison said she loves theater, television and film. Being on stage is a rush, she said, but “you’re just as real and in the moment” in film.

“I think it’s great she does something she loves,” Deb said.

Madison hopes to make acting a career, but realizes that can be a tough path. Her backup plan is to be a film director or a lawyer. The seventh-grader at said she looks forward to joining the debate team in high school and performing in musicals.

Madison is a member of the middle school’s newspaper and a substitute on the Science Olympiad team. She enjoys school and reading.

“My teachers are more like friends that teach me something,” Madison said.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Youth Theater’s production of “Annie,” visit www.123pyt.org. The curtain is scheduled to rise Dec. 2 at the Charles A. Brown Ice House in Bethlehem. The show will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday for three consecutive weekends.

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