In the Limelight students (l. to r.) Brendan Rothman, Paige Pedersen, Julia Corrie, Parker Wallace, Niki Little, Reid Beier, Abigail Young, Sean Goulden, Carina Draper and Alexander LaPlante rehearse for an upcoming summer musical.
What started three years ago as an acting studio offering nonmusical straight plays and formal training in acting based on Constantin Stanislavski’s teachings, In the Limelight has evolved into a full-fledge performing arts center that has grown from four students to more than 400.
“One of the reasons we started with a focus on straight plays is because there are many kids who don’t feel comfortable being a singer or a dancer, but they love to act. And when you only offer a musical, they are limited,” said Katie Corrie, owner of In the Limelight.
In her more than 22 years of experience working with youth actors, she discovered that many were not really tapping into the characters when they came up onstage.“They were reading the lines and pretending, but they weren’t becoming the genuine character,“ Corrie said.By employing what is known as the “Method,” students use a mix of the five senses and their emotional memory to make characters real.“We strive to choose plays that are based on books, because the educational component is very important to me,” said Corrie, who earned a bachelor’s in secondary education with a minor in drama from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. Before moving to Orlando in 2007, she worked in professional, regional and community theaters; schools; YMCAs; and resident camps throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, including New York, Maine, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She owned Tallulah Glitter Productions in Philadelphia and The Corrie Arts and Theatre School in New York. Throughout the years, she has worked with nearly 2,000 students who have pursued successful careers on and off the stage across the U.S., Canada and U.K.She also served as a faculty member for YMCA’s USA Arts and Humanities program, traveling the nation teaching YMCA staff members how to integrate creative arts programs into their offerings, which traditionally focus on sports and youth activities.In Orlando, she has taught and directed at Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Youth Theatre and L.A. Acting Workshop.When she began the acting school, Corrie would rehearse her students at community centers and perform the shows at other venues. “We had props, costumes and other stuff spread around in storage all over the place,” she said.Today, In the Limelight occupies an expansive 3,500-square-foot facility that houses storage, a stage, music studio, dance studio, box office, 100-seat auditorium, as well as a designated area where students can study and learn their lines.“I wanted my students to make the decisions as to how the studio would appear,” Corrie said. “From the color of the paint on the walls and decorations to the overall layout. I asked them for their input.”Throughout the years, Corrie has collected lights, sound systems and other equipment essential to operating a fully functioning theater.Though there is not a formalized theater technician program as of yet, Corrie will teach interested students the behind-the-scenes skills and functions needed to produce a show.“We hope to offer a tech class soon,” she said. “Not everyone who loves theater wants to be onstage.“Some people may have the misconception that youth theater will not be high quality. They choose an acting school for a fun activity or hobby. They don’t realize until they see one of the performances that it is serious business with us, and all of our shows are at the professional level. Students are not sent onstage with a paper hat and a colored T-shirt. They get the whole theater experience. We have between two and four ticketed performances with playbills that include head shots and biographies, period costumes and props. “We pay attention to detail, and they take ownership.”Students do a lot of research on the characters, time periods, cultures, geography of the settings, props, etc., in order to make productions as authentic as possible.Though In the Limelight’s foundation stays true to traditional theater with play performances during the school year, Corrie also listened to her students and expanded to include musicals, theatrical dance and voice lessons, and instruction in piano and guitar. The staff at In the Limelight is committed to longevity and building relationships with the students. According to Corrie, this is one of the components that makes her business a success.“Our instructors bring a high level of experience and professionalism, but also are able to connect with the students and promote a sense of family and support for their future endeavors,” Corrie said.Elisabeth Drake serves as music director, teaching piano and voice, as well as directing the music for all of the shows; Billy Bowser is the choreographer and dance instructor; John Payne teaches improvisation and stage combat techniques; and Kimberly Kreiner serves as the acting instructor for the preschool and elementary-school-age students. Tara Corless teaches all ages and provides technical support and training.Beginners and intermediate classes cover the theater basics and focus on skill development. Advanced classes are for actors who have had roles, are confident in front of the camera, and are serious about improving their acting craft. Specialized and private lessons are available for those whose plans include a professional career in the entertainment industry.Musical theater-focused tap and jazz dance lessons are available for those age 3 and older, and hip-hop is geared toward ages 3 through 18. In addition to private voice lessons, In the Limelight offers music and singing classes. Acting and musical summer camps run throughout the summer, and auditions for the fall season take place Aug. 25. Their fall productions include Disney’s The Little Mermaid for grades kindergarten-12, and The Life and Times of Santa Claus for grades three through 12.If there is one thing Corrie wants to stress it is that In the Limelight is an anti-bully zone.“From the first time a kid walks through our door, they know it is a safe place where they won’t be made fun of or criticized, and there are no cliques.”Her students presented Secret Life of Girls, an anti-bullying play about middle school girls, to a local public school and church groups. Corrie plans to do the same with a production of Surviving Lunch, which features a coed cast.“I don’t have any discipline problems,” she said about her students. “Everyone realizes that we are creating a piece of art. Just like a sculptor who uses a piece of clay to make a statue or a painter uses a canvas, they are creating their own art that they can be proud of. It’s all about ownership.”
In the Limelight is located in Suite 104 at 5555 S. Kirkman Road in Orlando. For more information, call 407-340-0920 or visit www.inthelimelightorlando.com on the Web.
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