A local star in the making
You count down for the curtains to draw as your heart flutters with anticipation. Your palms sweat as lights peak through the drapes. You take a deep breath and the curtains open to the sight of hundreds of gazing eyes. Heart racing, you take a deep breath. “No big deal,” you say. You know you’ve got this, because at that moment, you remember that the stage is your second home.
Welcome to a day in the life of local theatre student, Alexis Graham. Alexis, who has been acting since the age of nine, has grown her portfolio to include stage roles in local productions such as Cats, Godspell, and Les Miserables. I met with sixteen year-old Alexis Graham at Midtown Productions where she has pursued her interests in theatre as a student, an apprentice, and sometimes, even a teacher.
Midtown Productions has been a cornerstone in the Charleston area theatre scene since 1989. With budget cuts in public-education often threatening arts programs, Midtown recognizes the important role that the arts play in shaping young minds. Through their non-profit scholarship program, Midtown Productions has made art education accessible to children of all ages and backgrounds for over 20 years.
With a portfolio to boast at the sweet age of sixteen, who would believe that this shining star was once a bashful girl? Alexis recounted the moment that one teacher changed her life: “I was very, very shy”, Alexis chuckled as her mother nodded in agreement. When one teacher handed Alexis her first script, Alice in Wonderland, the rest, as they say, was history. The seed was planted, and with the encouragement and support from her teacher and mother, Alexis grew into the beautiful, confident, vibrant woman she is today.
Alexis explained to me the empowering and therapeutic effects that theatre and the arts possess. From boosting confidence, to helping her “break out of [her] shell,” theatre and the arts have played a huge role in shaping Alexis into the confident actress she is today. While still somewhat timid when it comes to public speaking in the high school classroom, Alexis assured me that it is “a totally different experience being on stage.”
“WHEN YOU’RE ON STAGE, YOU CAN BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE; IT IS ACTUALLY VERY RELAXING.”
Alexis has taken on several roles on the stage and behind the scenes at Midtown Productions. From shadowing directors and stage managers, to directing younger students, to learning light cues and assisting in wardrobe, Alexis has done it all. Although she is the shining star of this story, she confided in me that none of it could have been done alone. “When some people act, they think, ‘it’s just me on the stage, nobody else matters.’ Well, in the theatre, everyone matters because everyone has to work together to make it happen!”
The performances and the quality artistic education with which Midtown provides the community are just two examples of the greatness that can be achieved when people come together. When asked about the scholarship program at Midtown Productions, Alexis explained that, “Theatre can be very expensive,” but that scholarships allow kids who otherwise couldn’t afford classes to just have fun. Donations from the public are what have allowed Midtown Productions to grant scholarships to children and young adults of the Lowcountry, thereby allowing them to put their mission statement into action: “to entertain, inform, educate, and thereby enrich the cultural life of the greater Charleston area.”
When I asked Alexis about what advice she would give to others looking to pursue theatre, Alexis simply stated, “Do it. It is really fun, entertaining, and a great way to relax.” As for her future? With a 4.0 GPA, Alexis has her eyes set on several universities, the Unviersity of South Carolina being among them. Alexis plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in theatre with a minor in forensic science. She also has plans to rewrite and direct one of her favorite plays, Les Miserables, in a very unique way.