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BWW Feature: Osceola Arts breathes soul into community theatre

BWW Feature: Osceola Arts breathes soul into community theatre
Cast of "Sister Act", performed at Osceola Arts. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Nicole Photography

A priest, a mom, and an actress walk into a theatre...

Now you might think this is the set-up to a predictable joke, but the combined forces of these three individuals, and the hard work of many others, is actually the very foundation at the center of Osceola Arts' most recent success found in "Sister Act".

Through their hard work, faith, and ability to unite a talented team of people from different walks of life, Osceola Arts made strides towards a new step in their organization within the Central Florida theatre community. Amongst those strides is the theatre's first equity contract with Cami Miller in the role of Mother Superior, and an overwhelming amount of local support throughout the entire sold-out run.

While this show was successful overall as a production, it also proved to be successful in carrying out Osceola Arts' main purpose of providing a safe and creative environment for passionate community members to grow within a craft they love. This culture of support around the theatre wouldn't exist without the heart and soul of these productions-the local actors and crews of individuals who help the local arts scene reach new heights.

There's a familial bond that builds over time as artists work together. From Father Kent Walker (a priest with a passion for musical theatre), to the mother and daughter duo of Cathy and Cami Miller, "Sister Act" is a prime example of how the power of community theatre can bring people from different backgrounds together to create something impactful not only on the community, but on the individuals themselves.

"From the very first rehearsal, this cast was bonded," actress Dayja Legg said of her experience with "Sister Act". "We laughed and cried and cheered through our first read through and the bond only grew stronger from there. We gained mutual respect and love for one another."

But as with every loving family, there are some challenges along the way. Actor Terrence Jamison faced these struggles every day with his nearly three-hour commute to rehearsals and performances, but that never quite dampened his enthusiasm. In fact, it was through the support of his fellow cast mates who helped him run lines and offered words of encouragement, that helped him soar on stage.

"We come from different parts of life, and we all come together to do what we love or to try something we always wanted to do," Terrence said. "We all decided to make history together, and it's a chapter in our lives that will be embedded in us forever."

Laurel Hatfield, who played Sister Mary Robert, also knows the importance of a strong support system. With young children of her own, she found herself hesitant in taking on new roles that may impact her time with her family-but with the right encouragement, Laurel found herself on-stage in a role she had longed to play for years.

"I truly believe that it takes a village to raise children ... They are growing up in a huge, loving, show-biz family, and I wouldn't have it any other way," Laurel said. "I surround them with wonderful people who are kind, caring, and good influences. My village is my saving grace, and my kids are growing up surrounded by incredible people."

Community theatre and other performing arts groups also create a vein for local talent to tap into, creating the opportunity for them to fully explore their talent or pursue a lifelong dream. For Amanda Corcoran, that dream was to see her own children pursue theatre arts, but when she noticed their lack of interest in performing, she knew she needed to "set things in motion" and grace the stage on her own.

"I am completely in awe and thankful for such strong community support ... 'Sister Act' has been challenging, rewarding and amazing," Amanda said. "The experience as a whole has brightened my life."

Osceola Arts has also proven that special moments amongst families can happen on the stage as well. During the run of "Sister Act", Cathy and Cami Miller hit the stage together, creating a special moment between the mother-daughter duo who both bolster a passion for the performing arts and helping that community continue to grow.

"It's so important for community theatre to thrive, especially in today's world where there is so much chaos and negativity," Cathy said. "A child and adult can strive to be the best they can be, get together to create something social, learn to work as a team doing something they love to do, and share a mutual passion of theatre."

Cami shares her mother's feelings on the importance of helping local arts organizations such as Osceola Arts reach new heights and broader audiences. The diverse background of the cast and crew that helped push "Sister Act" to the level of success it achieved for the organization is just a microcosm in the arts community-proving how important each individual can be to the growth of community theatre as a whole.

"All theatres learn and grow as they go along, and Osceola Arts is doing good things in Osceola County with the performing and creative arts. I could not be happier for Osceola Arts, as well as the cast, crew and production staff that worked so hard on this production," Cami said. "There is a humbling acceptance within the arts community ... You can be as different as they come and still find belonging and a home in the arts."

Father Kent Walker, who did not stray too far beyond his daily life to portray Monsignor in the show, likened his time with Osceola Arts to somewhat of a healing and powerful experience. Channeling his faith and his passion for performing into his role, Father Walker soon realized how spiritual and sacred it can be to follow your heart and bring something you love to life on-stage for the joy of others.

"This show was a blast and I felt my soul fill up on many occasions," Father Kent Walker said. "At the end of ['Sister Act'] Mother Superior and Delores realize that God is not just in the sacred but in the everyday, the human condition. Doing theatre for me is just that...divine and human, no separation."

While the chapter on "Sister Act" has since come to a close for Osceola Arts, it appears as though they are truly just at the beginning of a bright future that could lie ahead as they continue to propel their organization forward within the community and expand their reach to create a lifelong impact on the community as a whole. But most importantly, as they expand their impact on the individuals who seek performing arts as their own artistic refuge.

Upcoming performances at Osceola Arts this spring and summer include "Lafferty's Wake" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". They will conclude their 2018/2019 season with "Newsies". To learn more about Osceola Arts or to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.osceolaarts.org/


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From This Author McKenzie Lakey