Meet Rebecca Stern!

Becca SternMeet Rebecca Stern!

Meet Rebecca Stern! A familiar face at Limelight – an extremely versatile actress in a variety of mediums who is enthusiastic, focused and hard-working with talent galore and best of all — one of the friendliest kids you will ever meet. She has graced our stage in such roles as Annie (Annie), Flounder (The Little Mermaid) and most recently as Jojo (in Limelight’s recent professional production of Seussical) — but wait until you see what other cool things she’s accomplished at such a young age. Enjoy getting to know this terrific young lady — she’s a favorite for sure!

 

Tell us about your experience playing Jojo in the professional production of Seussical?
My experience playing JoJo in the professional production of Seussical was one of the best experiences of my life, onstage and off. I loved playing the role because it can be interpreted many different ways. It was also amazing being able to work with such talented and kind professionals. I loved everyone in the cast and it was definitely a huge bonding experience for the kids. There were a lot of laughs and I looked forward to every rehearsal. When the weekend when I was playing JoJo was over I was sad, but it was a lot of fun seeing my friends do the role how they envisioned it. I miss it tremendously and I loved every minute of it.

That’s great and you did an awesome job — a true pro on your own but what was the single most thing you learned working with those talented professionals?
Thank you! The biggest thing I learned from the professional actors was to try anything to the biggest level you can. When Chad (Director) asked them to try doing something differently, they completely went for it and changed their whole performance of that particular scene or song. It was amazing how they were never nervous about how they looked to the other cast members and just went for it. I strive to do what they made look easy.

What a great lesson so early in your career. Who is your role model today — both onstage and off?
My role model has to be Amanda Jane Cooper. She is a phenomenal actress who went to my high school, Great Valley, and then graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in Musical Theater. She is currently playing Glinda in the National Tour of Wicked for the second time. She has been in many TV shows and it is so cool that she went to my high school. She has many accomplishments on stage, but she is also one of the nicest people offstage as well. When I was doing Annie at Limelight, she gave me a lesson to help me prepare for the show. She was so helpful and kind and even sent a follow-up email wishing me good luck and vocal exercises. She is definitely my role model.

You are so lucky to have a trusting mentor. Let’s change gears – What Broadway musical is the most heavily played in your song list lately?
I have to say Into the Woods or Beauty and the Beast. I love the music in Beauty and the Beast and I am so excited to participate in Into the Woods for Limelight’s middle school spring show. I have definitely been singing those shows around the house constantly.

Tell our young readers why you think participating in the performing arts is beneficial to their overall character.
When I was younger, I was shy and not very confident. My mom had me audition for my first student film on a whim because she saw it late at night and thought it looked cool. I became obsessed with performing and the more projects I did, the more confident I became. The more auditions I went on, the less scared I became at the next one. I believe that participating in the performing arts gives kids a stronger voice and more confidence. If you can sing in front of an audience of 100 people, then you feel much more comfortable asking a question in class. Some of my best friends are involved in musical theater, and they have shaped me. Some of the best people you will ever meet are musical theater people. If I had not done that student film and started my journey of performing, I can guarantee, I would not be the person I am today.

Wow – that’s fantastic… and it’s not just theatre for you — you have branched out into voiceover and industrial film work — how has that experience been and what else is on your bucket list?
It has been really fun doing voiceover and commercials. I love doing voiceovers because I am on the taller side for my age but I have a younger voice so I can play someone much younger. I was able to do many commercial voiceovers for Playmobil, which has been amazing and crazy for me to hear my voice on television and during the holiday season to see my Playmobil® video displayed at Toys R Us! I also sang the remake of “Number 9 Martian Beauty” renamed “A Real Martian Beauty” for Sesame Street. It aired on an episode called Abby’s Too Cool for School and when the episode aired, the song was on TV. It is on Sesame Street’s You Tube channel as well. I was shocked to hear my voice on Sesame Street. It was an amazing experience and I learned that it takes a huge team of people and a lot of work to make one music video. They had to make a puppet for the song and I had to go into New York City twice to record. It was over a year until the episode premiered. On my bucket list are more professional theater productions and more non-voiceover commercials and TV shows.

So awesome and such an iconic show as Sesame Street – what a great experience. You are a very versatile performer — is there one area you feel deserves more attention for further education and development?
Thanks! I feel I would like to put more attention and development on dancing. I currently take only Tap, but I feel that I should educate myself in more musical theater dance and other styles. I have taken Ballet, Tap, and Modern dance classes for years, but I now am just focusing on Tap because it fit into my schedule the best. I also would love to take Improv and other Acting classes.

You know what they say — try to be as well-rounded as you can — all of those classes are building your overall talent. They also say the best experience is to audition a lot — how often are you out there “pounding the pavements” looking for that next part?
I completely agree. The more auditions you go on, the better you get at them. I would say around 10 auditions a year. They are a mix of commercial, film, and theater auditions. Lately I have been doing mostly theater auditions.

Quickly – what is your dream role?
I can’t decide between Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Gertrude in Seussical! I love Belle and she is my favorite Disney® Princess. I like how she is such an avid reader and challenges the life that others have imagined for her. I also love Gertrude because she seems like she would be a really fun role to put your own spin on. She has a lot of funny lines and allows the actress who is playing her get goofy and awkward and have a great time.

I can totally see you being great in both roles. Is performing something you see yourself doing as a hobby as you get older or something you want to really pursue as your career?
That’s a hard question! I love performing, but I am also really into engineering and robotics. At this point in my life, I think I will stick to performing as a hobby, or maybe double major in engineering and performing arts. I would love to be a vocal teacher and help other kids get to their maximum potential. My vocal teacher, Susan Brizick, is amazing and I would like to teach voice to kids just like her.

Sounds perfect! What is on the near horizon for you?
Coming up soon for me is the auditions for Into the Woods, Jr. with Limelight! I am so excited to be in this amazing show! I have a lot of friends participating, so I think it will be a lot of fun!

Thanks Becca for taking the time to talk with us — something tells me we will only see bigger and brighter things for you in the years ahead. Keep smiling and laughing too because the fun is in the journey!

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Meet Lauren McAlee

 

Meet Lauren McAlee!lauren headshot

She’s a singer, dancer and actress extraordinaire… and she’s only in 4th grade! Lauren has been keeping busy with performing at Limelight – it’s all about Seussical lately– first playing in the professional production, the kids cast and then starring as Jojo in the High School production…that’s a lot of Seuss!

Lauren brings such a fresh enthusiasm to performing – we thought you’d love to read about this sweet and energetic young lady – enjoy!

 

Lauren – thanks for taking the time be interviewed for our “You In The Spotlight” blog series. You are fresh off the heels of Limelight’s professional production of Seussical The Musical. Lots of rehearsal and 3 weekends of shows — you must be exhausted. Was it a lot of work or a lot of fun for you to be in that production?
It was definitely tons of fun. At times it was tiring and a lot of hard work. We rehearsed every Sunday for months for nine hours so some of the Mondays I was very cranky. But at the end it was all worth it!

What is the single most thing you miss the most about it being over?
I really miss the cast! I learned so much from rehearsing with the grownups and the older kids. We were together a lot so all the kids in the ensemble became really good friends. I still talk to the kids and we are hoping to get together soon for a reunion. I don’t miss the Seussical script and songs though because now I am rehearsing for January’s Seussical Kids (grades 1-5) as a Bird Girl and Seussical, Jr.(high school) as JoJo! I am really excited to be Jojo! That’s a lot of Seuss!

Tell us about the first time you knew you wanted to be onstage performing before a live audience. What was it that inspired you to say “I want to do that!”
Well, I started dance classes when I was 2.5 years old so I was on stage for many Christmas shows and recitals. I always loved to sing, dress up and pretend but I didn’t do any theatre stuff. When I went to my first West Chester Summer Stage audition I was really nervous but I got a part and I was very excited to see what it was like. I LOVED West Chester Summer Stage and that’s when I got the acting bug. So I guess I’d say WCSS and Mrs. McCarney inspired me.

You have such a spark on stage – I remember your performance as Ariel in The Little Mermaid – you really seemed to understand the character and it shined off of your face. You were wonderful in that role — how was that overall experience for you?
Thanks! Well, of course Mermaid was an awesome experience for me! I felt the pressure at times during practices but the other kids and Mrs. McCarney made me feel better. We would work together as a team and I think we did a great show.

How did you prepare for the auditions for that part? Were you surprised when you saw you were cast in the lead role?
When I have an audition coming up I sing the songs and practice the lines over and over and over. I practice so much that my brothers throw me out of the room! But it is so much fun to practice and I get so excited to audition. When I found out I was Ariel I was in shock! I couldn’t believe that I was Ariel after all those years of pretending to be a princess.

Tell us about the favorite roles you played or productions you were in and what you learned about yourself while performing in them.
I loved being an angel in the Nutcracker at the Rock School West. I haven’t really had time to do it again but I hope to some Christmas soon. I am finally old enough to be in the talent show at school this year too so I am looking forward to that.

What roles do you hope to play one day if given the opportunity? What is it about those roles that interest you?
I would love to be Annie someday. She is very feisty and I like that she can light up a room with a song. I would also love to be Little Red Riding Hood from Into the Woods because the songs are amazing. I never saw the play but I loved the movie. I cannot wait to see the professional version of Into The Woods at Limelight. I think Mrs. McCarney will be the perfect witch!

We often hear that young people who participate in performing arts helps to build confidence and improve school grades because it requires you to manage your time wisely, be accountable for meeting deadlines, speak in front of others, working with a team, etc. — can you say you have seen any improvement as a result of you being involved in the performing arts?
Being involved in theatre has helped me in many ways. I am more confident to do speeches or read in school. I also play the flute, basketball and take two dances classes each week so I am pretty busy. But I like busy – I get bored easily! I definitely have learned that I need to plan out my homework and projects around preparing for and going to Limelight classes or rehearsals.

What is your favorite part of performing — acting, singing, dancing? What comes easiest and what comes hardest?
I definitely like singing the best because it comes easy to me. I find the acting part the hardest because I always get nervous about missing a cue or forgetting lines and messing up who goes next. There was this one line in Mermaid that I always messed up. I’d go over it a hundred times but I think I’d get so nervous that I was going to mess it up that I couldn’t think straight. So of course I messed it up and I messed up King Triton —but we recovered.

Why do you think it is important as a young person to constantly challenge yourself and learn new skills?
I think it helps me to grow up! As I do new things in theatre or in anything I like, that new skill helps me get one step further. So all those little skills I learn along the way get me ready for the next thing I think is a big deal at that time.

Tell us what Broadway musical you are singing all the time lately? Is it your all-time fave?
I was singing songs from the Secret Garden because I had a couple of auditions last month but now I am back to singing Seuss all day. Seuss is definitely my fave right now!

I was really surprised to learn you have a hearing impairment. Most would think it’s hard to sing and act with this but obviously you don’t have any difficulty do you?
Yes, I am 100% deaf in my left ear. Many people do not know I have a hearing problem until they go to whisper in my ear. It’s kind of funny because they look at me like …What? Huh!? The inside of my left ear is shaped differently which causes the hearing problem but I am lucky because most people that have this problem have it in BOTH ears! We didn’t know that I had a problem until I was almost four. Apparently one day in the movie theater (during the Princess and the Frog) my mom was whispering in my ear about popcorn and I told her angrily to “use the other ear”! My parents said it was scary at first but they say it didn’t and still hasn’t really caused many problems for me. My mom always says my right ear is “supersonic” because I hear everything even when she’s whispering! HA! I have learned that I really need to pay attention in certain places like in class, near traffic, in the gym when playing basketball and places like that. I have worked with hearing teachers who taught me not to be shy about asking for things to be repeated or for a better seat so I can hear better. Sometimes it bothers me and I wish I could hear better but when I think about kids who have so many other BIG problems than I know I am lucky it’s only an ear!

Thanks so much for sharing that information as well as sharing your love for the arts with us!  Thank you, this was fun!

Well there you have it folks – come see Lauren as Jojo at Limelight Performing Arts Center – this girl is going to be a big star one day – get your chance while you can .

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Meet Nora Fitzgerald

Meet Nora Fitzgerald – currently knocking our socks off as Amazing Mayzie in our professional production of Seussical The Musical.

NoraNora – 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!

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