Sherer Family

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?).

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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.

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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!

 

 

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Please Welcome Andrew Blank!

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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”.

 

 

Please Meet Karen Toto-Hockenberry

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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!

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