An Experience Based in Love
When I was in the 4th grade, I saw The Sound Of Music. I immediately knew I was an entertainer—an actor, speaker, writer, artist. I took my friends out at recess and taught them the musical numbers and then every Friday, my wonderfully patient teacher let me hold a short one-act play to perform what I had taught my friends that week. (I was always Maria, I mean I’m producing and directing so yes starring was key.)
Fast-forward many years later and I had become a principle character on the soap opera Days Of Our Lives on NBC in Los Angeles. I had, in the interim, been a radio talk show host, TV talk show host, and keynote speaker. Fast-forward again and I had become a mother to a smart, funny, precocious six-year-old boy who loved performing as well. We had landed in Sugar Land, Texas—a wonderful suburb of Houston. I was asked by his teacher to create an after-school program that would include all of my experiences as an actor, speaker and broadcaster. The program would need to be process-based, not result-based. It was a fabulous little Montessori school and full of bright, little faces who needed a place to put all that creative energy.
ACTING UP, my first school/theater for kids was born in that moment. All of my philosophies were developed on a legal pad as I created a program that would use the elements of theater on a larger platform to help the child as a whole: to develop self-esteem, to become part of a family of love and support, and to create a confidence in them that would follow them throughout their life. It was larger than theater, but theatrics and performing would be the conduit to bring these ideas into fruition—and to develop these skills in all the young performers.
ACTING UP grew like a fire—from my original 8 students, to over 200 in four short months. I taught at one little Montessori school and by the next month I had been asked to expand to two more schools! I was teaching about 200 students a week over four schools by December—after just opening in August of that same year! I knew I was onto something!
By the 3rd year, my husband and I decided to open our own theater, growing to nearly 400 students passing through our door every week. I taught everything—from audition prep to holding agent nights on a red carpet! We had summer camps and grew and grew! Then the theater was born and I could see the true core. The Children’s Theater became the center of our world. Every single production was sold out to standing room only. The young performers were a family of support and love and inclusion. They loved to stand in the lobby after the performances and sign their autograph on the programs.
Sadly I had to close my theater after my mother became very ill. I had to move back to the Deep South to be near her. Our family really never recovered from losing Acting Up. I thought I would never have a children’s theater again. In the last 12 years, I became an author, writing 11 books based in the Deep South—southern women’s fiction is the genre. My son became a nationally ranked pairs skater, placing in the top five nationally for US Figure skating and training with Michelle Kwan’s family in Los Angeles. My husband became a television producer. We lived out west for the last 12 years but decided to make a major change this summer and moved here to Wisconsin for my husband to take a job at CBS here!
So when the opportunity came again for me to have a Children’s Theater right here in lovely Cedarburg, I just knew the time was right to create this magical place for children again.
I had been asked by the local library to teach an actor’s series. Children showed up to learn and then asked me to help them. They asked me profusely. They wanted a new theater so they could have a place to perform, discover, and develop. I dropped by The Cedarburg Cultural Center, and within an hour, because of a fabulous woman named Jean Lambo, The Cedarburg Children’s Theater was born!
It was just that fast—and I deeply believe it was because it was simply meant to be!! I am thrilled and elated to be able to bring this opportunity to the children here—and I know it will be me who will certainly benefit from knowing and nurturing THEM.
Thank you for this incredibly opportunity to Love your Child into their potential.