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 email@example.com for more information.
Meet Nora Fitzgerald – currently knocking our socks off as Amazing Mayzie in our professional production of Seussical The Musical.
Nora – Thanks for taking the time to allow us to learn more about you and your love for the performing arts. Honestly, you do it all — actress, choreographer, dancer, director — tell us what you are working on today.
Well, after taking a break from performing for several years, I am finding my voice again–Literally! The voice is a muscle and I gotta get back in the gym! Being a part of Seussical at Limelight has been a fun challenge. After directing/choreographing students for so long, it has been a humbling experience stepping into the student/performer role again!
Let’s talk about your performing life first – Tell us about your start — how old, dancing, acting?
I started dancing when I was four, continuing into high school taking ballet and jazz. My first show was Bye Bye Birdie in sixth grade. I joined the musical because my older sister did it and I wanted to be like her. I was in the ensemble but then got to play the part of Margie one of the two nights because two girls skipped rehearsal one day to go watch a volleyball match and as punishment, one of their performances was taken away. We had more auditions and I got the part. At age 11, it was terrifying. We didn’t have many body mics then so the song was done with hand mics. We had to hand it off after each solo. I only had two lines, trembled through each one and then it was over. My first night in the spotlight was pretty anticlimactic.
Not to mention terrifying. What are some of your favorite roles or memories from stage performing?
After college, I got to perform with some of my dearest friends from school for several years. We all stayed in the area and auditioned for the same shows. Favorite roles would be Velma in Chicago (twice–I loved it that much) and Anita in West Side Story. Also, my first big role was Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress in eighth grade so that will always hold a special place in my heart.
That’s great – What do you love the most? What is your true north when it comes to performing arts?
I truly love directing and choreographing teens. It is such a vulnerable age. I enjoy challenging them with movement and encouraging them to be brave, giving themselves permission to make choices that are not always comfortable in “real” life.
Let’s not forget your commercial acting career — you seem to be on every channel some days — how fun is that?
Commercial acting is a totally different medium and often looks more “glamorous” on screen than it is behind the scenes. Working in front of the camera taught me a lot about myself and gave me valuable experience to share with my students.
How did you know it was time to jump back in — besides knowing you’d be in the company of some of Philly’s finest?
When the notice came out that Limelight was doing an adult production, I hoped I’d have the chance to be part of something professional where I might have the opportunity to grow. I find as I get older that I welcome moments in which I can be a student again!
Every actor has a story — what was the funniest thing that ever happened to you on stage — planned or unplanned?
This is a tough one. There’s always so many stories, which one to choose? I guess one of the funniest things that happened was at Three Little Baker’s Dinner Theatre. I was a swing for the Easter Show. This means you understudy several roles and are ready to go on for any of them at any time. We knew I was going on for one girl who was going to miss a show so there was an understudy rehearsal ahead of time. I knew the general blocking and dance steps but I never had the opportunity to run the show with full tech—sets, props, lights. I got through the whole show with some lip syncing and faking of steps. The other actors push you around too if you are not sure where you are supposed to be. Just keep a smile on your face and the audience won’t notice. So we get to the last big finale number—an Irvin Berlin tribute. The girls are wearing long gowns with gloves and little black bob wigs and the men in tails and top hats. We hit our end pose and I think I made it, I’m in the clear. Baker’s stage was a very large thrust stage that had audience on three sides. I am all the way downstage at the edge. The furthest down you can be from the back of the stage. I am leaning in a pose extending my leg and leaning back with my hand flexed in my “tah-dah” pose. I smile and hold waiting for the final blackout. And wait. And smile. And wait. I start to subtly peek over my shoulder and see the stage has cleared. No one told me there is no black out and I have been holding my final pose and smiling for what felt like forever. Even the audience applause has started to fade, probably wondering why this girl is still standing on stage and what she is going to do. So I make a dramatic, intentional turn around and take my very long walk to exit the stage. At the same time the “host” of the show comes on stage clapping and thanking the audience and laughing as he looks to me and gives me an extra clap and thank you for my extraordinary exit.
Nora – that is both hilarious and horrifying at the same time — thanks for sharing that with us. Let’s change gears a little – I know you have a special affiliation with Dance – including forming your own dance company, Confidance®. How frustrating and rewarding has that endeavor been?
Thank you yes, I believe that everyone can dance. It can bring so much joy and release and does not have to look a certain way. Starting my own business has been a mix of emotions. I have many days when I say, “Why on earth did I do this?” and many days when that question is answered and I feel great about the positive influence I am trying to bring to my world. After one school visit I received a handwritten letter from a seventh grader that said, “We haven’t been together long but you made the biggest boost in my confidence. You are forever in my heart.” These are the moments that make it all worth it.
What is your philosophy when teaching dance?
Positivity and encouragement. If you don’t know the step, make it up and make it your own.
With respect to your directing career — every Director has their favorites – Tell us about your favorite directing experiences with your students?
Pippin and Kander and Ebb’s The World Goes Round with Twisted Art summer theatre program in West Chester were the first two shows I directed/choreographed with teens. I remember how much time and creativity I enjoyed putting into the productions. I never thought I would be interested in directing but all it took was an opportunity and I fell in love with the process! More recently my shows at Rustin High School have been my favorites specifically Les Miserables, which is probably the largest production I have ever put together and Peter Pan cause it was just so much imagination and fun.
At our West Chester Summer Stage program — you choreographed the Mainstagers for a few years. A program where teens literally put a full blown musical on its feet in roughly two weeks. What has that experience been like?
Awesome. The students come in with such enthusiasm and energy. It’s exhausting for sure but incredible how hard everyone works with the same goal of creating a major production in record time. I am always so impressed with how quickly the students memorize lines, learn dance moves and how dedicated the production team is to making it the best experience possible.
Tell us about your bucket list — the roles you want to perform, the shows you want to direct, the dances you want to choreograph.
I would love to play Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone and Kari in the play The Pavilion by Craig Wright. I always wanted to Direct/Choreograph Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for teens because it was my favorite show as a teenager.
Clearly some great choices there for sure. What’s on your horizon — after Seussical – what do you have in store?
I recently received my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training certificate and am currently teaching Vinaysa Flow yoga at Simply Yoga in Exton. I also teach a program called Let Your Yoga Dance® at the Yoga Barn in Kennett Square that combines yoga, dance and breath. I have taken a great interest in my own well-being and helping others to find their strongest self. I plan to use my training and Confidance® program to travel more and spread the joy!
Thanks again for sharing your experiences and wisdom — our young readers in particular will find this most helpful. In the meantime —break a leg on the Seussical The Musical – with only two weekends remaining. You are awesome in the show and your hard work has really paid off.
Tickets for this family friendly production can be purchased online at www.limepac.com – I encourage you to get your tickets today to see Nora and the rest of this amazing cast!
It’s Thank You Thursday — Tinkerbell Style!
It is time to thank some very special people again, folks who have been big supporters of Limelight – our great friends the McCusker-Sherer family.
Our relationship goes way back – Ann attended Prendie H.S. with Lisa and they shared several years together at Upper Darby Summer Stage, too. Over the years the arts kept them in touch – with Lisa working a season at our West Chester Summer Stage and her son Matt participating in several productions that Ann directed and produced. In fact – Matt was a huge help last year when we went through the exhausting task of moving 15 years worth of costumes, scenery, set pieces, props and other theatre stuff to our new location. On days like that — you need all the help you can get and when a big, 6’4″, strong young man with endless energy arrives to help — you are grateful to have him there and we certainly appreciated his eagerness and enthusiasm (did we mention he is also a model and actor?).
Lisa has always been a huge advocate for the arts in many ways. She’s a great supporter of people in general — always there to cheer you on and give you that friendly push to do your best. When we opened the doors at Limelight – Lisa and her husband Stephen (who also shares the same gift of helping others) were at our sides with lots of encouragement and support. They jumped at the chance to fund one of our studio classrooms, Lisa chose the Peter Pan theme and our talented scenic designer, Peggy Fotusky came through with the design — they made a great team. We absolutely LOVE the embellished classroom. Please swing by the studio and —check it out yourself.
Much thanks to Lisa, Stephen, Matt and Liv for your continued love, support, encouragement and being a champion of the arts. You all have such a wonderful “service to others” mentality which makes us proud to be in your company!
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
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!
Meet Bernadette Langdon – super mom, nationally recognized school teacher and performer extraordinaire… It’s only fitting to showcase Bern in our Step Into Your Limelight interview series. We have known Bernadette for many years – she has an enthusiasm for live performance and a zest for life. Think early Carol Burnett – she’s witty, deadpan, self-deprecating and a barrel of laughs to be around. Bernadette has such an interesting performing and teaching career – it’s amazing how she has used her experience in theater and improv into her teaching style. Did we also mention she has a beautiful singing voice? We hope you like getting to know Bernadette – enjoy!
It’s rare to see you without a smile on your face – why is that? Are you just hardwired to smile?
I guess so! I’ve always been a generally positive and upbeat person. I love to be with people and a smile is a great way to break the ice. But the real secret is… most of the time, I’m just having fun!
You have been performing for many years – tell us about some of your fondest memories and productions?
I started performing in high school and those first plays will always have a special place in my heart. Godspell was an incredible experience in which I really felt for the first time that close-knit bond among cast members that actors often describe. It had a tremendous impact on me personally and spiritually. I also fell in love with my future husband, so that might have had something to do with it!
I got involved in a comedy improvisation group in college, performed with a children’s theater troupe, and then acted in community theater productions off and on through the years. About 10 years ago, I worked with some very dear friends on a series of original cabaret shows that were really a blast. I still love to perform, so I hope that I’ll continue to have new experiences as yet unimagined.
What’s it like at home having an insanely talented family – between you, your husband, Mark and 3 children – is everyone fighting to sing over each other?
Hmmm, let me think on that one…talented? Maybe. Insane? Definitely! I love that our home has always been filled with music and laughter and performing. I don’t think there was too much competition for parts and such, not that I can recall anyway. What I do remember most is hearing the kids singing all through the house at all hours of the day and night. Now that they are home less frequently, I miss it! We do have a tradition of singing together at Christmas Mass though, and that gives Mark and me a lot of joy.
How important was considering the performing arts when deciding the many options to expose your children to?
It just seemed like the natural thing to do, since Mark and I had had so many positive experiences in theater through the years. We wanted to share our love of the stage and see if they might enjoy it, too. When the opportunities appeared through West Chester Summer Stage and at Shanahan High School, the kids just seemed to thrive on it. I imagine our own enthusiasm for it was contagious at first, but as they developed their own talents each one seemed to fall in love with performing too. Of course, we also signed up for sports, and scouts and visual arts along the way, but before long the performing arts took “center stage” in their lives. (See what I did there?)
Haha – very clever… In your opinion – what is the real value in exposing kids to the performing arts? Is it the chance to express themselves or really about allowing them to take risks and feeling the reward?
You don’t need to look far to find testimonials about the educational and personal benefits of involvement in the performing arts! I have experienced them firsthand in so many ways.
Here is my not-so-short list.
· develops self-confidence
· improves listening, speaking, and non-verbal communication skills
· promotes cooperation and positive team work
· provides practice in overcoming obstacles and dealing with disappointment
· exercises creativity, self-expression and critical thinking
· builds social skills for making friends, succeeding in school, and advancing at work
· expands awareness of popular culture
· allows opportunities for risk-taking (and not taking yourself too seriously!)
· creates connections that ground you as a member of the human race!
Also, and perhaps most important, it’s just really, really fun.
That’s awesome – How has that “not-so-short list” contributed to your kids confidence now that they are entering adulthood?
Of course, I’m biased, but by most objective measures, my kids are doing pretty well as young adults. I really do believe they received all those benefits I listed above. I credit their overall success so far, in large part, to their childhood experiences acting, singing, and creating music in the performing arts! Actually, there were a few years there when I think Ann saw more of the kids at rehearsals than I did at home. So, thanks for raising some mighty fine kids, Ann!
You have such an amazing career as a school teacher – tell us how your experience in the performing arts has contributed to the success of your teaching career?
I sometimes tell my students that, unfortunately, they’re the captive audience of The Mrs. Langdon Show. They are stuck in those seats until the bell rings! Teaching is very similar to performing, so I find that I am right at home in front of a class. Using music, rhythm, dance or acting to convey a new concept is second nature to me because of my theater background, and luckily, educational research supports those techniques for learning. When I use a character voice or sing a goofy song, the students might roll their eyes or make a face as if I am the weirdest person they have ever met! Then I know I’ve got their attention.
True or False: Teaching sixth graders is just as fun and scary as performing in front of a live audience?
Haha, sixth graders get a bad rap! They’re a great audience and always keep me laughing, too. When I was just out of college the idea of teaching middle-schoolers scared me much more than playing to a full theater, but now? Either one – piece of cake!
What tools do you find yourself using today as a teacher that are a result of your arts education and experiences?
This one is a little tough to nail down because I use many different performing skills every day. If I had to choose, I think I would have to say that one skill I use daily that was honed on stage is: timing. Timing is the secret to being an effective speaker whether you want to capture someone’s attention, bring your point across clearly, or get a big laugh. Timing is everything. Nothing teaches the nuances of timing like performing!
You are always looking for ways to grow as a person – you recently jumped in head first into the Adult Improv class offered at Limelight – what was that like? What triggered you to say “I’m doing this”?
I remembered how much fun it was to do improv in college, and I wanted to exercise those muscles again! In fact, I recently attended a mini-college reunion and had an opportunity to participate in a little improv with the current college comedy troupe at my alma mater. It was so much easier to jump up and join in after my Limelight Improv class experience! It gave me the confidence to risk it, and I am so glad I did. It ended up being the highlight of my weekend!
I love that – “I wanted to exercise that muscle” – you really hit the nail on the head. Tell us about the funniest thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Well, this didn’t actually happen to me, but it still cracks me up. Once in the murder mystery Ten Little Indians, another actor skipped ahead over several pages of dialogue to a point in the show at which a couple of the other actors on stage had already been killed. It was a riot watching them try to exit unobtrusively!
Limelight Interviews Pat Shane– We’ve Enjoyed Watching Him Grow!
Pat Shane is no stranger to Limelight Performing Arts Center. He currently teaches a Youth Theater class at our studio but his roots with us go way back many years at our three-week summer camp, West Chester Summer Stage (WCSS). First he was a performer and more recently as an instructor and camp counselor with WCSS. Pat is keeping himself very busy in the performing community — his words of wisdom and experiences make his advice relevant to many of the young performers in our studio. It’s been such fun watching him grow over the years and the sky is the limit for his future.
What’s new? What are you up to these days?
It’s been a very fun year for me! At the beginning of 2014, I started an Acting Apprenticeship with the Walnut Street Theatre. This consisted mostly of a touring production of an educational show that reached almost 80 schools throughout the Philadelphia/New Jersey area. I was also given the opportunity to understudy in one of their Mainstage productions, Other Desert Cities. Currently, I am a teaching artist with the Walnut Street Theatre, as well as a performer in the Media Theatre’s production of Les Miserables.
How has your theater training helped prepare you for where you are today?
I received my theatre degree from Bucknell University, a liberal arts college not well known for the dramatic arts. This led to small class sizes and productions. However, it allowed the faculty to give as much individual attention as needed to each actor. I looked into the larger conservatories, but there you are practically a small fish in a big pond. At Bucknell, I was able to nurture my talent in an environment that had the time and resources to challenge me.
What was your favorite role? Where did you perform it?
There is one role that will always have a special place in my heart. The Fall after I had graduated college, I got the part of Gary Soos: a naive Teach for America student determined to change the educational world (and a lover of puns). The show was called Awesome Alliteration: The Magical Musical and it was presented as part of the Philly Fringe Arts Festival. The role was comedic, romantic, passionated, and absolutely cartoonish. It was a blast to play, and I hope to play it again one day.
How did you prepare for the audition? Can you share some of your tricks?
There are 3 things I do before every audition:
1) If it’s available, read the play. If you are auditioning for a musical, listen to the music. Go on YouTube and watch the dancing. Just like a football player studies film before a game, an actor must prepare. In some auditions, the director likes to ask you about the character you are auditioning for. Make sure you have something intelligent to contribute.
2) Find material appropriate to the production. Don’t use a Shakespeare monologue for a modern play. Don’t sing a Taylor Swift song for My Fair Lady. It seem’s like common sense, but casting directors tell stories all the time of inappropriate audition material. No matter how good you may sound, they will shut you out.
3) Don’t over-prepare. Memorize your monologue, perform it a few times in front of a mirror. Learn your song, and sing through it a few times. THEN STOP! Casting directors aren’t looking for a perfectly polished audition piece. They want to see some naturalism and organic moments throughout the audition. Also, many directors will give you notes and have you sing or act again. Make sure you are flexible enough in your approach that you are able to change it to what the directors say.
Are you still performing today?
Yes, I am, and I’m very lucky to be doing so!
True or False: Regardless of how well you prepared for a role — you still get nervous before walking out on stage.
100% true! The nerves spawn from an excitement to do well, an excitement for the audience to enjoy it, and an excitement to share the experience with my fellow actors.
How do you prepare for a role? What is your approach to getting inside of a character?
While many actors like to work on their own, I think that character development is a team effort. Sure, I’ll have many ideas on what the character should be, but I believe the input of the director, choreographer, and the playwright play an important role. As for getting into character, I try my best to take on their point of view. Why do they act the way they do? If there aren’t clues in the text, does my backstory make sense? Do I need to make up a backstory to give him more depth? I very rarely have a grasp on my character until the middle of the rehearsal process.
What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you onstage?
Oh boy, this is also my most embarrassing. I believe in the Macbeth curse…
I was performing in Macbeth during the summer in between my Sophomore and Junior year at college. One the roles that I played was Banquo’s Murderer. During Banquo’s death scene, as I approached him with my ax, I felt the elastic in the waistband of my pants give out. So there I was, ax in one hand, and holding my pants up with the other. I had to finish the murder like this and pray to God that no one in the audience caught glimpse of the Simpsons boxers I had on underneath…
Tell us about a role you really wanted but didn’t get — what did you learn from the process?
A specific role doesn’t come to mind, but I’m always disappointed when I don’t get the role I auditioned for, even when I’m not right for it! The biggest thing I’ve learned is that just because you didn’t book the part doesn’t mean you aren’t talented. There are so many factors that contribute to the casting process, and as long as you are willing to keep trying, you will find success.
How do you handle rejection?
It takes time, reassurance, and hanging out with friends and family.
Tell us about any special training you have.
I spent one summer training with the San Francisco Mime Troupe located in the Mission district of San Francisco. The training consisted of commedia dell’Arte and physical theatre. In layman’s terms, it was clowning! The troupe specializes in satirical political theatre with emphasis on parody and clowning. I learned that even the most mundane activity can have comedic effects when done at extreme levels. It was a fun and challenging summer!
What excites you most about being in front of a live audience?
Interestingly enough, for me, I love the control. When I’m speaking or singing on stage, I sometimes become fully aware that I have the power to control the emotions of the audience. Their enjoyment rests solely on my performance, and that’s such a rush for me!
Which do you prefer most: plays or musicals? Why?
I prefer to act in plays, but would rather watch a musical! I’m not the best dancer, so musicals always impress me more than straight plays.
Which do you prefer most: Sinking your teeth into a gritty dramatic role or an outrageously funny role? Why?
Comedy will always trump drama for me. I would rather make someone laugh then cry (I think that’s a good life motto too!)
Who is your favorite playwright?
David Mamet — love all of his works!
Who is your favorite lyricist and composer?
Stephen Schwartz! Godspell, Pippin, Wicked…you can’t go wrong.
Tell us about your dream role.
Like any male in their 20s these days, I would love to be in The Book of Mormon! The musical is funny, endearing, and jaw-dropping at moments. I think performing in that show every night and seeing audience reactions would fuel any artistic spirit.
Have you ever considered directing — does that interest you?
No! I tried directing in college, and all I wanted was to be up on the stage!
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