Category Archives: Uncategorized

Town’s future forecast: Singin…and dancin….in the rain!

Guest blog by Parker Byun

In the Columbia community of theatre, participants come from a multitude of different backgrounds with a wide range of interests. When I step out of the acting world, I often do not realize that being a part of this community really makes me stand out!

I am now in my fourth and final year at the University of South Carolina, and my major is Geography with a Physical Geography track – this is the study of the physical earth, including landform and climate patterns. I plan to work in the field of weather and climate, and yes…this includes being a meteorologist! This past summer, I was a volunteer intern at the National Weather Service of Columbia, and I found it incredibly fascinating to learn the “behind the scenes” work for forecasting. Furthermore, it gave me a better understand and appreciation for the environment around us. I will never look at the weather segments on the news the same again.

Paker 9 to 5While I was developing an unpredictable interest in Geography my first year of college, I KNEW I wanted to continue to work the stage. I demonstrated a mere interest for the stage when I accomplished my first play at eight years old, Don’t Drink the Water by Woody Allen, which some friends of ours put together. I portrayed the role of Kilroy—the tiniest Kilroy ever to be conveyed! A few years pass, and I begin chorus in middle school and high school theatre at Spring Valley High School where I began working with Allison McNeely. I participated in my first Town Theatre show in the Summer/Fall of 2012 where I was cast in The Music Man (directed by Shannon Scruggs). I felt at home with Town Theatre.

Parker Les MisWith this in mind, talking with my peers, supervisors and professors, the question is always asked, “What do you do for fun?” The answer is simple, I love performing! This answer seems to throw people off in one of two ways: either they never would have guessed I had any interest in the performing arts, or they never knew I would major in Geography because I exude a love for performing! Because the two do not correlate, the joke always comes up that I should be a dancing, singing meteorologist on live TV! To be honest, the gig doesn’t seem half bad!

Parker violinSingin’ in the Rain is my eleventh show at Town Theatre and I could not imagine a better group of people to share the stage with. I reiterate the variety of the cast. There are some who have never done a show before, and some who have done shows for years. Nonetheless, when everyone is working hard, you would never guess this was the case! Everyone has had the ability to learn from each other and cooperatively work together to put on a memorable experience.

What particularly stands out about this show is that it deals with both weather and performing! (So why wouldn’t I absolutely love this show?) The Singin’ in the Rain aspect demonstrates that no matter how unfortunate a situation can be, or how you think you have hit rock bottom, you can always make joy and bring joy into a situation!

So, in spirit of the weather man who performs on stage, you can expect there to be singing, dancing and scattered showers throughout each performance! “Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face, because believe me, you will leave this show feeling positive and refreshed!”

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Parker as Will in Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of William Refo.

What more could a theatre kid ask for?

Guest blog by Ella RescignoElla headshot

What a summer! Now that I am back from 20 days in NYC, I can reflect on all of the wonderful things I was able to do this summer. My mom reminds me of a quote she loves,  “Dance. Smile. Giggle. Marvel. TRUST. HOPE. LOVE. WISH. BELIEVE. Most of all, enjoy every moment of the journey, and appreciate where you are at this moment instead of always focusing on how far you have to go.”

Every single day of my summer was spent doing what I love.  I am passionate about singing and acting, I love dancing, I enjoy spending time with friends that love what I love, and I’m a dreamer. My family encourages my dreams and I am blessed by God to get to chase them.  I started my summer performing in my dream role, Jane Banks. You see, at age five I saw the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. I sat on a booster seat and cried as Mary left the children. When it ended I told my mom that I would be on that stage one day. Sure enough, Mrs. Shannon cast me as Jane Banks. It was a role that I will always remember and I am grateful for the opportunity. I spent time learning blocking, music and lines. I enjoyed meeting many new people at Town and got to spend my days at my favorite Columbia Theater.

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Photo courtesy of Kids of the Arts.

For me, it all started at Town. I was five and joined Mrs. Jamie’s youth program. I was Oz in the Magical Land of Oz, young Cosette in Les Mis and Susan Waverly in White Christmas. Little did all the people surrounding me know that they were feeding my love and my hopes for the future. When I finished my last performance as Jane Banks, I flew out the next morning to begin rehearsals in my very first Off Broadway production of Dream Street.  I was cast in the lead role as Lily. Our plane landed, we raced to our driver, and he dropped me off at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.  For 12 days I spent 8-10 hours in rehearsals with one 30 minute break each day. And honestly, I just wanted more. The production lasted six days on 42nd Street and it was a dream come true for me. One step closer to living my dream.

Ella rehearsal
Photo courtesy of Kids of the Arts.

Our plan was to be home one day before school started.  There are often things I don’t share, but I can share this one.  I got a call from my agent in NYC, Abrams Artists Agency. They asked me to stay and audition for a CBS TV series and an equity National Tour of White Christmas. I stayed for both and was called back the following day.  I felt great about both auditions and callbacks. Then comes the waiting. So many people ask me how I can wait and so often be told no. Unless you love it like I do, you may never understand. Auditions fill my soul, they fill me with excitement.  The preparation, walking into the audition room, performing for people I’ve never met and then letting the process happen. By the time you reach a final callback, it’s not about your talent or ability anymore. It’s about a look, or your size, or your hair color, or your height compared to adult actors being cast. So to answer the question about how I do it and hear “no” so often. Well, “no” means not right now to me. It’s never final. It means “close this door and look for the next one to open.” It means “you made it to a final callback and just didn’t quite fit at the end.” It means “this isn’t the right timing, this isn’t God’s plan for you.”

Ella sitting
Photo courtesy of Kids of the Arts.

I am positive about my future, I have thick skin and BIG dreams. So in the meantime, I will train train train. I will sing, I will dance, I will take acting classes for stage and camera, and I will trust that God’s perfect plan and timing will reveal itself. My family and true friends support everything I do. I am surrounded by an incredible team of “trainers” and I have an agency that wants to represent me right into adulthood. But most importantly, this is what I love.  This is what makes me happy. What more could a theatre kid ask for!!

A play, poultry and pigskin…

In your Kentucky Blue south-carolina-gamecock-football-logo-150215or Gamecock Garnet, we hope you’ll join us for a fun day of tapping and tailgating! Our Saturday, Sept. 12 show will have a 2:00 PM start time. After the show, we’ll have the Poultry in Motion food truck outside ready to fulfill your tailgating needs. Dine in our courtyard or grab your food and head to the football viewing spot of your choice! Kick-off is 7:30 PM and the game will be televised on the SEC Neuniversity-kentucky-logo-859152twork so there will be plenty of time that day for a play, poultry and pigskin!

Grab 25 wings with tortilla chips and a pint of PIM’s “world famous queso” for $35. Need a little more? Grab 50 wings with tortilla chips and a pint of queso for $55. Need to feed a smaller crowd? No worries — some of PIM’s regular menu will be available too.

Get your tickets online at www.towntheatre.com! Poultry in Motion will take your order before the show and have your food ready to go after the curtain falls. (And we have to say it… Go Cocks!)

Adventures at Flat Rock Playhouse…

Guest blog by Caroline Quinn

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I missed being in Town’s summer show with my theatre family this year – but I had an exciting summer adventure in Flat Rock, NC performing at Flat Rock Playhouse – the Theatre of North Carolina.  Flat Rock is a really neat mountain town founded by people from Charleston looking for a place to cool off during the summer.  Did I mention that it’s at least 10 degrees cooler there?

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Caroline as the toothless Molly at Town Theatre; Photo courtesy of Amy Quinn.

I first appeared at Town Theatre five years ago in Annie.  Shannon, the director, cast me as the youngest orphan, Molly, and she didn’t even complain when I showed up for the first read through with a terrible lisp from losing six teeth AFTER she had cast the show.  Since that show, I’ve considered Town Theatre to be my home, and I’ve been addicted to the stage.

At Flat Rock Playhouse this summer, I performed in Gypsy as Young Louise, the oldest daughter of the “stage mom” Rose Hovick.  Young Louise only appears in the first act of the show before being replaced by an adult actress.

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Caroline as a belting Susan Waverly in Town’s White Christmas; Photo courtesy of Amy Quinn

At the start of the show, Young Louise’s mother focuses all of her attention on turning her younger sister Baby June into a star, which makes Louise feel pushed aside by her mother.  It was a very different role than anything I’ve ever played because I was supposed to be quiet and not very confident, and most of my past roles have been feisty characters.  My family and friends thought that one of Mama Rose’s first lines where she had to yell at me, “Sing out Louise!” was very funny.  Anyone who’s heard me belt will understand why that was so amusing to them. After June runs away to get married, Mama Rose wants to turn Louise into a star.  Louise became known as Gypsy Lee Rose, a very famous burlesque star.

I hope to have a successful career in musical theatre, so this opportunity to perform with professional actors, directors and crew who are actively working in the industry was amazing!  I made great friends and learned so much more than I thought possible.  My favorite things about being at Flat Rock Playhouse were working with professional actors like Klea Blackhurst, making new friends, and watching as tour buses line up on “the Rock” to bring groups in from neighboring states to see our show.  That would never get old!  On my days off, my favorite things to do in Flat Rock were hiking to the water falls, swimming in the river, and spending time with my biggest fan, my brother Trace.

I completed 32nd performances, including 2 on my 12th birthday last week, and started back to school the next day!  I was sad when the show closed, but will always remember this experience.  I know I’ve made some great life-long friends, but I’m also happy to come back to my Town family.

Stepping in Time at Town

Guest blog by Christy Shealy Mills

I only intended to do the one show — Annie — in hopes of enabling my twenty-something- year-old son to meet new age appropriate friends. While his position as dance instructor/Tumblebus teacher had provided a multitude of new acquaintances, most of them were under the age of five.

I was delighted to make it into the ensemble, along with aforementioned son, as well as 12-year-old daughter, after the nerve-wracking audition with a theatre full of hopefuls of all ages. That spark set off a wildfire and we have been constantly making that one hour drive since walking into that sea full of theatrical strangers, many who have since become great friends.

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Christy Shealy Mills as the Birdwoman poses with Agnes Babb. Photo courtesy of Mills.

I have watched with great and ever-growing admiration as one of those friends worked her magic on many cast mates during rehearsals for the ten musicals I have taken part in alongside her. Truth be told, at first it was with just a tinge of uppity-ness when I learned that SHE was the dance captain. I wondered what made her so special. It didn’t take long to figure it out. I have seen other new-to-Town Theatre dancers (especially dance teachers, who are used to being in charge) exhibit the same misguided attitude, although not outright and openly. One has to be tuned in to notice it.

As a dance teacher, I know how hard it is to correct a student without squashing their confidence or causing a bit of defensiveness. It takes just the right amount of gentleness combined with firmness, which is why Ag is the perfect dance captain.

Agnes Babb has exactly that right amount. She is the epitome of grace and tact, which she puts to good use when assisting actors, many with fragile egos. I have often observed how she says “hey, can we go over this step?” (yes, to me from time to time), when she really means “hey, you are doing this step wrong.”

Agnes would never utter those words, or anything that could be offensive, even if true, to a cast member. She accomplishes what needs to be accomplished and always leaves the subjects feeling more confident and certainly appearing more polished. Of course, I wasn’t there for the first 60-something shows she did at Town, so this ability to “fix” without offending could be a learned trait, but I believe it is an innate quality. Even when calling us to review before going onstage, it is never with an air of bossiness, which folks in any degree of leadership positions tend to possess.

To my way of thinking, a dance captain is like a drum major in a marching band. The job is to keep the morale high, keep them instep and often to run interference. Agnes does all this as if by second nature. She is one of the many reasons I think so highly of Town Theatre. Agnes Babb is just as gracious offstage as she is graceful onstage. I am thankful to Ag for helping us to always “Step in Time.”

Go and Chase Your Dreams

Guest blog by Kerri Roberts

On the stage, the music begins, the story ignites with melody and lyrics, movement and nuances of character. The energy of the others there with me and those engaged from the audience thrills and drives me.  It fills me with a passion and satisfaction like absolutely nothing else.  I had almost forgotten.  It’s been a long time.  Like riding a bike it all came back to me, and I realized once again that this is what I was made to do.  But there’s been quite a journey since the last time I was here and I have quite a different perspective.

I can relate to George Banks when he sings, “A man has dreams of walking with giants; to carve his niche in the edifice of time.”  I know that feeling.  I had dreams of New York City.  I had a husband with a heart to go with me anywhere, to support my dreams.  We had a plan to pursue it.  And then we were surprised with our first sweet baby boy.  I knew in an instant that my dreams were changing, growing. That maybe in this life we get to chase many dreams – not just one.  And different dreams must take priority in different seasons of our lives.  And though I was still able to do a good deal of singing during that time and two shows at Town Theatre, (The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast), my priority was growing into my new role and experiencing new dreams as a mother.

In 2008, another new dream took our family to Zambia, Africa.  And we spent the next 7 years living and working there.  The things we saw, the people we served, the experiences we lived changed us for the better, forever.  For 6 of the 7 years we were there I didn’t sing at all.  I wrestled with who I was, with the significance of my life and my passion for music in light of the things I now knew about the world.  Then last year I had the opportunity to put together a series of opera and musical theater programs with 3 other American friends who were also living in Zambia.  For the first time in years I felt alive doing what I love the most.  And I realized the significance of it.  Joy.  In the faces of those who watched, privileged upper class and the destitute poor.  What I was doing brought joy, to me and to others.  In addition, doors opened for relationships to be formed that otherwise would not have been.  Those performances may not have changed the world, but they changed the atmosphere for those groups of people for that space of time, and I was so grateful.

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Kerri and her family pose after opening night of Mary Poppins. Photo provided by Kerri Roberts.

Over this last year our dreams have expanded yet again and brought us back to the States.  In this new season in my life, I feel the overwhelming desire to pursue things that make me feel alive.  Not simply for my own joy, but because I get to help shape the dreams of the 5 little people entrusted to me.  This is why I decided to audition for Mary Poppins and why I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this stellar production!  Not only have I had the chance to rediscover the absolute joy of being on the stage, but my husband and kids get to watch me do the thing I love most.  And because my 3 daughters are also in the show I’ve had a front row seat to watch them try something new, and love it too!  This is why our community theater is so important.  We need places like Town Theatre that give people like me the chance and the space to chase our dreams and to bring joy to the lives of others, right here in our own hometown!  I feel so blessed to be a part of Town’s family.

I don’t know how my dreams may develop, but here is what I’ve learned.  Maybe my life’s ambition is not to carve one niche in the edifice of time, but to use the gifts given to me to make at least small imprints on the lives of those I touch – my family, my friends, or audiences in a theater.  Perhaps the pursuit of one dream doesn’t have to mean death to all other dreams, but there are ways for one dream to actually fortify and strengthen other dreams!  We are all gifted in various ways.  May we all learn to look for the joy and be willing to expand and grow as our dreams change and take shape.  The smallest gift, when used to change the atmosphere of one life, for even a moment, creates a ripple that can change the world.

All It Takes is a Spark… Chasing Dreams… Anything Can Happen if You Let It

Guest blog by Betsy Jackson

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Betsy and her son Nathan getting ready to fly a kite! Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Last summer my family was introduced to the theatre experience when my youngest child Nathan was cast as Michael Darling in Town’s production of Peter Pan.  Not knowing what we had gotten ourselves into is quite an understatement.  Right before our eyes something magical happened! I will never forget the way my heart felt, or the tear that dripped down my face when I saw the first full run of the show.  It is a feeling as a mother that will stay with me forever.  There Nathan was chasing his dreams without any fear of what was to come, and loving every minute of it!  I’ll have to admit watching the show made me a little jealous! I had always wanted to do something like that, but unlike Nathan I was afraid.  

It was in the production of White Christmas, that the news had spread that this year’s summer show would be Mary Poppins.  There was immediate excitement among our household.  It’s practically all that was talked about for months.  Even during a family trip to Disney back in March, no one wanted to leave Magic Kingdom until we found Mary Poppins and got her autograph.  I think it was then that a tiny little spark welled up in me that maybe I too wanted to be a part of something this fantastic.  I remember telling family and friends that I was thinking of auditioning myself.  To be honest I got some differed responses. From, “YOU? What are you going to do?” (to which I responded, I don’t know, maybe I’ll ‘Fly a Kite’) to “Oh my gosh that’s awesome, you should!”  Still I had not completely made up my mind.  But then the night came for auditions and with the help of a friend, I chased away my fears and I did it!  I remember driving home that night thinking, no matter what, I was so proud that I had overcome my fear and auditioned for a show! Something I had always dreamed of doing.  

So here I am.  A member of the Mary Poppins cast.  And Guess What?  I get to “Go Fly a Kite” with my sweet Nathan right beside me! Ha! There are no words to describe the feelings inside of me.  My heart is so full!  Not only do I get to share this experience with my child and the rest of the cast, but I get to share this experience with everyone who walks through the doors.  What a Feeling! To know that I was a part of something so great, that for a moment, even if just for a few hours, everyone in the audience can forget their troubles, worries, or fears and feel the excitement that Mary Poppins brings to life!


From the lighting, the sets, the music,and choreography to the cast and crew, this show is one you don’t want to miss!  You can have a “Jolly Holiday” with Mary or “Step in Time” with Bert and his sweeps, but one thing’s for sure… You will leave feeling SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!

Mary Poppins a Practically Perfect Family Experience

Guest blog by Hans Boeschen

After revisiting aspects of my bachelor life while my wife, Lou (Warth) Boeschen, worked on Town’s last show Spamalot, I decided, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” And that is precisely what I did. 

Working on Mary Poppins these past few months have not only provided an opportunity to meet new people and collaborate on a great work of art, it has also given my wife and I a common experience we will always remember together. As I look around at my cast mates, I realize that Lou and I are not the only family creating summer memories. By my count, there are 11 families with at least two members in our cast and crew.

What an experience to share the stage with mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, and friends who might as well be family. After all, bringing families together is precisely what this experience is about.

Hollywood has recently presented a convincing argument that the story of Mary Poppins is really the salvation of George Banks. Based on the stage version, however, I would disagree. I will not pretend to know P. L. Travers’s true intent with this iconic story nor have I read any of the books beyond the first volume, but I feel the true spirit of the musical is about the entire Banks family. While George definitely has the most drastic growth, each of the family members learn their role in the survival and support of the family unit.

As our families continue to work on this production, we hope you and yours will join us as on this magical journey as we learn more about what it means to be a family.

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Hans performs as the Park Keeper in Mary Poppins. Photo by Helen Hood Porth.

Personal & Professional Development…the Poppins Way!

Guest blog by Jennifer Simmons (aka Mrs. Brill)

What does professional development have to do with Mary Poppins?

Well, when you are a theatre teacher it has a lot to do with it! During the school year I teach theatre to middle school students.  Every day, I get to talk theatre with budding young actors, actresses, stage technicians, and playwrights.  I am teaching, coaching, and directing these students constantly.  At the school level, you often do literally everything for the show EXCEPT perform.  That’s where this summer’s production of Mary Poppins comes in to play (pardon the pun).

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Jennifer rehearses for her role as Mrs. Brill, the housekeeper. Photo courtesy of Christy Shealy Mills.

Aside from directing many different productions for the school year, I am a mother and a wife.  Finding time to be able to do anything outside of my current obligations is often hard.   It had been a while since my last show (a couple of years, in fact) and I had gotten that “itch” again to perform.  I saw the auditions for Mary Poppins and was pleased to see that most of the rehearsal times and all the shows would be held during the summer months.

I actually hadn’t auditioned for anything since I officially started teaching two years ago.  Being back on that side of the casting table, so to speak, was a wonderful opportunity for me to remind myself of what my students go through.  While I am often discussing the mechanics and logistics of auditions, I had lost sight of the nerves and the butterflies that come from the unknown.

The rehearsal process has also yielded a great deal of self-reflection.  When you are the director, you are looking at the big picture – the overall story that you are telling.  However, as an actor, I had forgotten how much fun it can be to focus on a singular character arc.  Even when Mrs. Brill isn’t on stage, I find myself during the rehearsals wondering what it is that she would be doing at that moment during the show.  While I often have my students create a character profile and think about their character beyond the script, this process has sparked some new ideas and enthusiasm for how to tackle this topic in the classroom.

I’m also eager to be behind the scenes for the flying process.  I’ve never had the opportunity to be in a show where an actor has been flown, and so learning more about that process first-hand is exciting.

I cannot wait for this show to open.  The entire cast is incredibly talented.  (Side note:  It is a test of my acting for me to NOT break out into uproarious cheer after Ruth Ann McKee sings “Brimstone and Treacle”.)  Shannon Scruggs’ choreography and staging are excellent.  In fact, I dare you not to smile during “Step in Time.”  Bring your family and friends for a night of jolly good fun!

Practically Perfect Poppins Preview Party!

Join USA National Miss South Carolina Breanna Scurry, magician John Tudor and members of the cast of Mary Poppins for a Practically Perfect Poppins Preview Party on Saturday, July 11 at 10 AM.

After hearing from our special guests, party goers will get a sneak preview of our upcoming show, Mary Poppins. But that’s not all! You can join in on the fun and learn a few steps from our cheerful chimney sweeps, make your very own Spoonful of Sugar and try your hand at Feeding the Birds. Throw in a photo op with Mary, Bert, Michael and Jane and a few other goodies, and it’s sure to be a Super-cali-fragi-listic kind of day!

Tickets are $10 (ages 15 and below) and a $5 contribution from everyone else. Proceeds from the party will benefit research for those with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome — an extremely rare genetic disease affecting the life of one of our very own cast members. Hear what she has to say:

Call 803-799-2510 to purchase your tickets for a fun-filled event and to be a part of another Town Gives Back moment!