Limelight is looking forward to our upcoming professional and student productions of “The Wizard of Oz“. We have already cast the professional production and we are excited to see this cast come to life! Auditions for the student productions will take place on Sunday, January 29th. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It’s THANK YOU THURSDAY!
Seussical Studio Dedicated to Nick Mullin
We would like to thank some very special people for supporting Limelight. When we began our GoFundMe campaign last year our dear friends made some very thoughtful contributions. We are eternally grateful and to show our appreciation we dedicated space in our Performing Arts Center and our set designer, Peggy Fotusky, really outdid herself with her design and beautiful artwork.
Tom and Dee Mullin’s son Nick was involved in our West Chester Summer Stage Program during his battle with cancer. Despite his struggles, he lit up our stage with his huge talent and a smile that inspired everyone he encountered. One of our studios is now dedicated to Nick – a beautiful tribute to him and the show Seussical he starred in (in fact – we are proud to display his unicycle and red converse sneakers that he used in our production). It is our privilege to honor Nick and his courageous parents who are succeeding at keeping his memory strong and making a difference through their Nick Smiles on the Arts Foundation.
Honestly – the pictures don’t do the studio justice – we encourage you to visit our performing arts center and see this studio for yourself – it’s a great place for learning. Thanks Mullins for allowing us to share Nick’s story with our students and for your continuous loyalty and support of Limelight!
For more information on the Nick Smiles on the Arts Foundation and the wonderful causes it supports – please visit: www.nicksmiles.org
For more information on Limelight Performing Arts Center –please visit: www.limepac.com
Meet Chad Parsons!
A talented Philadelphia actor, director and acting teacher – Chad keeps himself busy with his own personal artistic endeavors as well as enriching the talents of our students in various acting and musical theater classes at Limelight. In addition – he has directed many shows at both Limelight and our own West Chester Summer Stage. His high energy, big smile and enthusiasm for working with his cast and students sets him apart – he truly wants each actor to reach their absolute best performance in every single production. We found it only fitting to let Chad “Step Into The Limelight” – we hope you learn a thing or two from this veteran performer. Enjoy!
Welcome Chad! You might be one of the busiest Actors/Directors in the Philly area – what are you working on now?
I am currently Directing Seussical The Musical here at Limelight and I couldn’t be more excited. Last year was an incredible first season with Broadway Bound, Annie Jr., Grease and Little Mermaid – but this year it’s all about Seussical for the Fall Series and most exciting is the introduction of our first Professional production with many of the area’s most talented, professional actors. What’s even more exciting is we cast several young artists to join the cast – it’s an incredible experience for them to be onstage and in the presence of working professionals. It will be like an acting intensive for them every rehearsal. I’m interested to see how they will grow as a result of this experience – they are already hugely talented kids but trust me – they will grow!
That is so exciting. At what point in your life did you decide “this is my profession” and fully commit to being a working professional?
After a year at Mansfield University studying Elementary Education (following in my parents footsteps) I had a moment when I found out that Mansfield was making big cuts to the theatre program and one of the cuts included the yearly musical. The thought of not being able to perform killed me . . . So I left. It was at this moment I really decided to push forward and pursue a passion that I had no idea where it was going to take me. I knew I was going to have tough times, I heard it about a MILLION times from my parents. But I made a decision to immerse myself into theatre. I still struggle with performing vs. behind the scenes as to which one I “like” more, and the truth is, I love it all. I love how we as artists interpret characters and story. How we show our audience what we want them to see. That fascinates me.
Along those lines…If you’re not acting, you’re directing and vice versa – what is the most rewarding to you personally?
That is a tough question because I LOVE sharing a character with an audience. But I found Directing to be more rewarding for me. Because it’s like my head explodes on the stage. And it’s a really cool feeling to see it come to life. You sit back and smile because you have an awesome cast with an amazing production team that all collaborated together to make this fully realized show. And sometimes you have no words for that but “Thank You”.
For the young actors who perform in our productions, or who decide to enroll in a class to further their education: what is the one thing you want them to get out of the experience that will benefit them in the future? What do you really want to see more of from them as well?
I want my students to walk away knowing that hard work pays off. Focus pays off. You learn so much about yourself and others as a theatre professional. I want them to learn about who they are. Regardless if you continue to pursue theatre as a profession or not, you will always remember the times you had when you were “in a show.”
As a seasoned performer who auditions a lot – AND – a working director who auditions actors a lot: What advice can you give new actors on the audition process? How should they prepare, approach and execute the audition?
To quote Billy Porter “When you get to a certain level. Everybody can sing, everybody can dance, everybody can act and EVERYBODY is cute . . . You have to find out what makes you stand out, what makes you special.” You will never be the person next to you or 10 people in front of you who you just heard belt her face off and you know you don’t sound like that. Don’t let that intimidate you! From experience being on the other side of the table, the director is looking for his/her vision of the character. You must always bring YOU. How do you prepare to audition?. . . AUDITION! You learn so much every time you go on an audition, no matter what the outcome is. Of course you should always be prepared and research the show you’re going in for. And make sure you prepare anything that is specifically asked of you.
Be honest – when you are directing someone and you offer a specific way to read a line – do you want them to just say it the way you said it while having them believe they thought of it?
Partially . . . but I want more the essence of what/how I say the line. I usually give line readings to the younger students who are not yet willing to come out and say things using their intentions.
Let’s change gears and focus on you as the actor:
What was your favorite role and where did you perform it?
My favorite role was Mendel in Fiddler on the Roof at Fulton Opera House.
What a great venue and show – Fiddler always seems to be at the top of list for many an actor. Share with us a little – If we were to see you backstage minutes before your entrance – what would we find you doing?
If it’s my first entrance in the show I am super focused and in a zone, and running through things in my head. Sometimes I start to walk around backstage physically getting into character. But once we start rolling I’m a little more relaxed backstage but overall I’m quiet and stay focused on the show that’s going on so I don’t miss a cue (which I have done before so I have learned my lesson). It happened to be while I was talking about a person who had just missed their cue . . . so Karma!
Have you ever been cast in a role where despite all your preparation – you never fully felt like you were doing your best work?
YES! I was cast as MacDuff in “MacBeth” It was COMPLETELY outside my comfort zone. But it was one of the most rewarding experiences in the end. I never felt like I connected fully to it in moments, and wish I had more time and training to fully develop what I only felt like I was skimming the surface of.
You landed the role – what comes next – character development and preparation or memorizing those lines?
UGH! I am SO BAD at memorization!! I research first. I visualize and physicalize my character and get in it’s brain while reading through and taking notes in the script. I let it develop more when I begin to be active with my scene partners. Memorization for me comes through repetition and connecting thoughts and actions in the blocking.
What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you onstage?
I made up a whole verse of “Surrey With A Fringe On Top”:
“All around is all around, the cows will moo in the clover, and just when you’re thinking everything is still, oh guess what it’s not over” . . . then I forget what I said next, I was a sweaty mess and blanked out . . . but I’m sure it was brilliant, but I finished with “The frogs will hop, and the stars will . . . pop!”
That’s hilarious – terrifying I’m sure but now you probably have gotten more laughs about it. Tell us about a role you really wanted but didn’t get – what did you learn from the process?
I really wanted to be cast in the National Tour of “Wizard of Oz”. I had just played the tin man at a regional theatre and went to the tour call. I made it down to the final 3 Tin Men and they ended up casting someone who was already on tour with them. That was a moment I learned it’s sometimes “who you know”. I also learned that either of the other two guys could have played the role as well. We all had our own qualities in the character and that was a cool thing to see how slightly different each of us were. You can learn a lot from observing other actors.
What genre of performing arts just doesn’t do anything for you?
Bizarre Street Performance Art . . . I try!!! I respect them.
I’m with you on that one…Which do you prefer most: Sinking your teeth into a gritty dramatic role or an outrageously funny role? Why?
I LOVE funny roles!! Duh!! But lately I have wanted to sink my teeth into more dramatic roles just to challenge myself and see how far I can go with a role.
Tell us about your dream role – the one you haven’t performed yet.
Seymour from “Little Shop” hands down! I love that show and that character! Plus anytime three girls riff it up and sing tight harmonies, I’m in!
You heard it here folks – cast this man as Seymour fast before someone else grabs him! Chad – thanks for taking the time – we can’t wait to see what you have planned for Seussical the Musical!
Andrew has a long history with us — from his many performances at West Chester Summer Stage to local school productions and here at Limelight, too. We have watched him grow and mature over the years into a fine, talented young man and actor onstage. He’s the kind of young man who pushes himself, takes risks and keeps education as a priority in life. Given his love and commitment for theater — we thought other young performers may relate and learn from his approach. Enjoy!
Andrew – Welcome to Limelight’s “Step Into Your Spotlight” interview series. It’s hard to keep up with you — tell us what you are up to these days.
Right now, I am just getting ready for school to start again. I am president of the Choir so I have been doing things to prepare for that. It’s a big job but it’s going to be a lot of fun! I am also Vice President of the Ambassadors Club at Bishop Shanahan High School and they are very active at the beginning of the new year to welcome new students! Auditions for our musical, White Christmas, is coming up so we are all preparing for those auditions. Also, there are papal choir practices so I have been very busy!
Wow – you are busy for sure! You have a long history with West Chester Summer Stage – how old were you and what was your first production?
My first show was actually when I was five or six years old. I did Little Rascals for one year but then took a break and didn’t do it again until the summer after 5th grade.
What do you remember most about it?
I do not remember anything from my Little Rascals days but from my 5th grade year, I remember having a few little solos and loving performing. It really began my passion for theater!
And then last year you scored two lead roles in Limelight’s production of Grease – what did you do to prepare for that audition?
Well, this actually wasn’t my first time in Grease. I played Eugene in Grease at Notre Dame my freshman year so I already knew the show and all of the songs. Being in this show before definitely helped with my preparation because I knew exactly how each character could be played. I was able to just think about how I would say each line or walk into a scene as that person. I just had to add my own personal touches to it.
I remember your performance as Eugene too — three roles from the same show — that’s pretty awesome. For a young man — you keep pretty busy with performing — tell us how many shows you have done to date?
I have been in 19 shows total (Starting my 20th very soon)!
Amazing – that’s a lot of stage time. What was your favorite role and why?
My favorite role that I have played was Kenickie in Grease! Kenickie was so far from who I am, so I had to step out of my comfort zone to do this. There were some many things that he would say and do that I would never have, but it gave me the opportunity to portray that person. The character himself is so fun because he really doesn’t care what people think and just did whatever he felt like.
Clearly you are a good student of the arts – Share with your fellow performers what you do to continue learning and broadening your craft?
I take voice lessons with Kim Russell Voice Studio once a week which is truly important. Taking voice lessons really strengthens your ability as a singer and a performer, and I suggest everyone take them! I have also taken classes at Limelight to help with acting and performing. My biggest thing is just to be in as many shows as I can. I am usually in three shows per year but if I have the opportunity, I try to be in more! Working with different actors, directors, choreographers, and musical directors has taught me so much because they all have their own ideas and techniques.
Very good point — the exposure to those Directors and Choreographers during the rehearsal process is like taking performance classes in itself. So given that — what comes hardest for you: script memorization, singing, choreography, acting? Share with us what you do to work harder on those skills that don’t come as easy.
Acting has always been the hardest for me. To work harder, I go over my lines all the time in my head. Being memorized early on really helps because then I’m not as focused on what the words are, but more what I am really saying and how it should be said, as well as, how it would be said as that character.
That’s a good tip — get off the script as early as you can so that more time can be spent on further character development. Was there ever a time when you didn’t land the role you wanted despite putting in the proper preparation? How did you bounce back?
There has been a few times that I have not gotten parts that I really wanted. I always asked my directors afterwards what they thought that I needed to improve on. I took their feedback and really worked on what they had to say so that I was ready for my next audition.
Always learning — love that. What was the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during a live performance?
In Grease, a friend of mine who was playing Danny completely messed up a famous line in the song “We Go Together”. Everyone on stage just kind of looked at one another in disbelief that he really did mess up. It was so hard to not laugh on stage but we were in the middle of the song so we all tried to just keep it together. It was all we talked about during intermission though!
Can you directly link how your dedication to stage performance has helped you succeed in other areas of your life?
Stage performance has helped me build my confidence. At the beginning of High School, I was an extremely shy kid and I didn’t talk to many other students. Performing on stage and having to be up there in front of so many people helped me come out of my shell and become more confident and sociable.
What’s the one piece of advice about performing that someone gave you that you’d like to share with your fellow actors?
One thing that I always struggled with was being confident in my self and my acting choices. I wouldn’t go full out or do things that I thought could work because I was afraid it may look dumb. I realized that taking those chances, and really going for it can make your performance amazing!
Let’s change gears a second to something very special to us. You were a recipient of the prestigious West Chester Summer Stage Nick Mullin Scholarship Award that recognizes young performers who possess the same bright outlook on life and enthusiasm for the arts that Nick had — tell us about that experience?
Receiving the Nick Mullin Scholarship Award was an honor. Being a part of West Chester Summer Stage and the Fine Arts Department at Bishop Shanahan, I had heard so much about Nick and who he was. Everyone who knew Nick has so many wonderful stories of his character and passion for the arts and his name brings a smile to their face. Winning this award and being recognized for possessing similar qualities to Nick was such an amazing and humbling experience!
That’s awesome — and choosing you came easy — you have those same gifts and talents.
Tell us about this exciting little (ok maybe this once-in-a-lifetime chance) to sing for the Pope? You must be pretty excited about that, huh?
Singing for the Pope is going to be amazing! I’m so excited! There are about eight rehearsals total before the big day, and two of them are at the Kimmel Center with the Philadelphia Orchestra. That will be so fantastic! The whole day and weekend is going to be so wonderful and I’m so glad and blessed to be a part of such a momentous and historical occasion!
It really is an incredible opportunity. I think all the years you devoted to your craft has prepared you for this opportunity — so you are very deserving. High School will be wrapping up soon — do you think you will continue to perform in college and after?
I would love to continue performing. Performing is my passion and I would never want to give that up. I plan to minor in musical theater to allow myself to continue doing what I love and working on my skills!
Terrific – keep doing what you do best. We look forward to seeing your last few performances before college life. Thanks for talking with us Andrew – as they say, “Break a leg”.
We have known Karen for many years – in fact our paths have crossed in many ways from directing to choreographing to performing together in a production or two. She has a ton of energy and keeps herself busy with a lot of interesting stuff. The proud mom of two amazing sons and the wife and co-pilot to an incredible guy – we thought her story would be great for our “Step Into Your Limelight” interview series. It’s always nice to see a person hit their stride several times in life – and Karen definitely fits that bill. Enjoy!
Karen – welcome to the “Step Into Your Limelight” interview series. You always seem to have a positive outlook – What is making you smile these days?
Playing Electra in Gypsy at the Media Theatre and finding out that my name (Karen Toto) is on the Billboard on highway 95 as one of the Burlesque Dancers…what a hoot!
That’s awesome and fun – we have seen it and it is a hoot! You have had such an admirable professional performing career – tell us about some of your fondest memories and productions.
Wow – there are so many it’s difficult to pick…I loved touring with both My Fair Lady starring Rex Harrison and 42nd Street starring Barry Nelson…in addition to the thrill of performing in those productions I had so many fantastic experiences seeing the country, hanging out with the MOST FUN people, and doing what I loved, all at the same time. I went Hot Air ballooning in California, did aerobatic gliding over the desert in Arizona, and went to the Magic Castle in L.A., just to mention a few. But the epitome was definitely Opening Night of My Fair Lady on Broadway…My Dream come true!
It’s a lot of fun looking at your old pictures from those productions – you can immediately tell you were enjoying every minute and were surrounded by incredible people. You were a bona fide triple threat (singer, dancer and actress) in the business on stage and television – yet you switched gears in life and pursued a career in helping people find their dream homes – what prompted this life change?
John and I wanted to have a business together as we were about to start raising a family and wanted more control and to not have to travel away from home …I always had a great interest in Real Estate so it seemed like a good transition.
Tell us how your experience in the performing arts has contributed to your success as one of the nation’s top rated Realtors? What tools do you find yourself using today that are a result of your arts education and experiences?
Hard work, discipline and great preparation are needed in both …also every time you go on a Listing Presentation it’s similar to auditioning. You need to be totally prepared. So I went from auditioning for Shows to auditioning for Listings!
That’s a lesson we hear a lot – the preparation process of being in a show helps with the preparation of so many other aspects in life – love hearing you make that connection again. Recently you put your toe back in the water and landed a role with Media Theatre’s “Hello Dolly” with Philly’s own Andrea McArdle – how much fun was that?
It was a fantastic experience! Andrea was super nice, very down to earth and we had a super cast! It was a blast!
Was this your first performance in a long time? How nervous were you auditioning?
Yes, I was nervous but since I have a day job, there is much less pressure. I really wanted to do it, but if I didn’t get it I figured there would be another opportunity in the future.
So share with your fellow performers what you did to help you prepare to nail the role? Did you take refresher classes?
I took singing lessons from Bill Mayo at Limelight. That was really helpful as I had not sung in a really long time. I teach Zumba so I do still dance and I workout, so I was not as concerned about my dancing.
So basically back to that “being prepared” thing, huh? What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself during the rehearsals and performances of that production?
The joy of performing never leaves you and I felt the same as I did 30 years ago when I did 42nd Street. The years just melted away.
Does this mean we can expect to see more of you on the stage?
Hopefully, I’m very fortunate to have my husband who can takeover when needed.
What excites you most about performing in front of a live audience?
There is an energy that cannot be duplicated when performing before a live audience. It’s great to hear their responses, their applause, their laughter…there is nothing like it!
Tell us, have you performed your dream role yet?
No, I have not performed my dream role yet… I would love to play Adelaide in Guys & Dolls. (tee-hee)
We hear you have exciting news about a new role you are preparing for. Can you share with us what’s on the horizon for you?
Gypsy rehearsals start Aug 31st. I was asked to be on the Board at the Media Theatre and I have accepted. And continuing to sell lots of homes & find folks their Dream Home. It’s a Busy life!
Wow – I guess you will never slow down – such exciting things ahead of you. Thanks for taking the time to share your story.
Folks – make sure you get your tickets to see Karen knocking them dead in Gypsy – opens September 23rd at Media Theater! Congrats and break a leg, Karen – We couldn’t be more proud!
Join Us – Open House on October 4th from 1pm to 5pm.