Downtown Bloomington’s TheatresCool heads west
Written by Dan Craft, The Pantagraph
Thursday, 26 July 2012
Kymberly Harris, founder and director of TheatresCool, the downtown Bloomington acting school and theater space closing its doors Tuesday after four years.
BLOOMINGTON — In her seven years as an acting guru in the Twin Cities, Kymberly Harris has passed along her method-influenced techniques to hundreds of students of all ages and backgrounds.
Now it’s time to move on — physically, anyway.
TheatresCool is Harris’ brand name for her endeavor, begun in 2004 in the basement of The Coffeehouse in Normal and transplanted four years later to its own storefront space at 403 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington (site of a former, short-lived performance space, the Black Box Theater).
In addition to its main function as a learning environment, the intimate (30-40 seats) space has also functioned as a lively mini-performing arts center, offering everything from poetry readings to comedy to live music to full-blown theater productions.
No more, though: The TheatresCool sign is coming down next week and will follow Harris and her 14-year-old son, Ethan, to Los Angeles, where she’ll continue to teach acting while pursuing her own performance career in films and TV.
Ethan, meanwhile, will start performance classes this fall at Alexander Hamilton High School’s noted Academy of Music, best known as the setting for the Disney Channel’s reality series, “Totally in Tune.”
Like mother, like son: no doubt about it.
“It’s just really hard to get in there,” Harris says of Ethan’s acceptance at Hamilton High. So she made the decision to give him that opportunity while continuing her own career at movie/TV ground zero.
“Being an actor, it’s going to be good for me, since 96 percent of all TV and film work is in L.A.,” says Harris. “I’ll be able to pursue more opportunities.”
Like, say, landing a role in a continuing TV series — something that would suit her needs perfectly as a working mom.
But teaching is also her true love. So her Actor’s Studio training in New York will still manifest itself in classes, both in the flesh and live via the Internet.
Accordingly, the TheatresCool brand name will remain intact via www.TheatresCool.com and whatever physical space Harris eventually finds in Los Angeles.
“I want to continue to work with my students here, so I’m really encouraging them to continue their work with me through Skype,” she says, referring to the Internet voice-and-video technology already used by acting coaches around the world.
Harris herself already has been using Skype to communicate with students based in New York; she hopes to maintain her presence here in the Twin Cities via the same technology.
When she learned Ethan was accepted into the L.A. school, Harris’ initial plan was to keep the TheatresCool space in downtown Bloomington open and overseen by others.
“I had about three months to find someone to take it over without me here, but that proved really difficult,” she says. “It just couldn’t happen quickly enough.”
Harris originally returned to her hometown roots, after a successful career in Chicago and New York, to raise her son. At the same time, she felt it was the perfect time to introduce an acting school based on the techniques she’d learned as an alumna of the legendary Actor’s Studio — “acting from the inside out,” she says.
Moreover, “I realized there was nothing like it around here,” especially in terms of young actors her son’s age.”
Then, after working exclusively with pre-teens, she decided to move up the demographic ladder into adolescence and adulthood. The classes in the Coffeehouse basement outgrew the space, inspiring Harris to move into her own digs in downtown Bloomington.
She says she’s enjoyed her time “back home” in B-N, but knows that to keep that essential pattern of growth going, the westward move is essential.
“As an artist, I have to keep growing so I can continue to give back,” Harris says. “That’s really important to me.”
ciLiving’s Joe Barlow comes to TheatresCool to talk to Artistic Director, Kymberly Harris and our Teen Method Acting Class! Watch the video!
Artistic Director, Kymberly Harris was hired as Casting Director for a Mitsubishi commercial that was coming to film in Normal, IL. Her dedication, professionalism and experience made her an invaluable member of the team and was promoted to Second Assistant Director. Kymberly was able to cast 70 members of the Normal Community and provide work for TheatresCool actors!
Don’t adjust your monitor. It’s just a not-so-normal TV commercial shot in Normal, Illinois!
Open mic night at TheatresCool features ISU English professor
Written by Nathan Staller, Daily Vidette Reporter
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
As the lights dimmed in a small theater studio in Downtown Bloomington, audience members took their final breath before having it taken away in a rapid remix of poignant poetry.
Tuesday night, TheatresCool, a local business in Downtown Bloomington, held its monthly Re:Verse open mic night for poetry and creative writing. The studio has been an artistic hub for patrons of the fine arts for the past two and a half years and holds acting classes and events like these on a regular basis.
Kymberly Harris, founder and owner of TheatresCool, has lived in the Bloomington-Normal area for much of her life.
“My parents are both English professors. My mom is a poetry professor and my dad was the chair of the ISU English Department for 15 years,” Harris said.
Harris grew up meeting talented professional poets and writers of all kinds. When she returned to the area after working as an actor throughout the United States she saw an opportunity and she took it.
“While growing up I was privileged to get to know a lot of poets that worked around here, so I thought I’d extend my stage to encourage the opening of minds,” Harris said.
Those who come to the event often return with renewed courage and a thirst for experience.
“A lot of the people who read during the open mic event are regular readers,” Steve Halle, associate director of the publications unit of the ISU English department, said.
Halle has been a featured reader at the events since its earliest days as well as an audience member. As a fourth year Ph.D. student, Halle loves poetry and thinks about it constantly.
“If I’m not writing it, I’m thinking about it,” Halle said. But Halle isn’t simply a reader he has also helped inspire others to share.
In order to inspire local writers Harris decided to use featured hosts, like Halle, each month to give confidence to amateur writers and poets who came.
This month she selected award winning ISU professor Ricardo Cortez Cruz. Cruz is an ISU alumnus who, during his time at ISU, won the Brome Creative Writing Award.
Melissa Mamroth / Daily Vidette Photographer: Illinois State professor Ricardo Cortez Cruz, author of Five Days of Bleeding and Straight Outta Compton, performs his works at TheatresCool’s open mic night in Bloomington on Tuesday night.
After a brief time in journalism as a sports writer for various papers, he eventually began his teaching career as a college English instructor. But, he never forgot his writing roots.
“I started writing in grade school,” Cruz said. “When I was young I was very shy…writing was that voice for me in a sense.”
In 1997 he began as a guest professor at ISU and has remained here ever since. Today he teaches both African-American literature courses as well as creative writing courses.
“It’s cool to teach African-American literature in creative writing. I can be that literature and I can also talk about what it means to be that writer,” Cruz said.
While Cruz doesn’t teach his own works, he still feels that having that ability to reach the students from both sides of the literature helps make a stronger impact in the classroom.
But for Cruz the literature he writes goes beyond the classroom to a very social level as well.
“I have probably always been committed to addressing issues of race; it has been my reason for being… [I talk about] the social ills that haven’t been spoken [about] enough,” Cruz said.
The passion of Cruz’s works have not been lost on anyone, in fact even students in his class ventured out to hear some of his work.
“His poetry was amazing. It was a remix of references and emotions…it would grab you and ooze into your ears,” Jeff Rozalewicz, senior English Studies major said.
Rozalewicz, who has taken a creative writing class taught by Cruz before, loves the author’s style of writing.
“It has a lot of love and a lot of fury in it,” Rozalewicz said.
Thanks to his excellent lyrical poetry, Cruz was able to lift the very essence of the event to a level that proved, even when words fail, the music of the unheard heart speaks.
“O, BRAVE NEW WORLD…”
A Review of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Produced by the Illinois Shakespeare Festival
by James L. Seay
It is generally thought that The Tempest is Shakespeare’s “farewell to the theatre.” Actually, it is the last play he wrote, so far as we know. However, the play seems to be more of an expression of Shakespeare’s experience in coming to terms with life rather than a retirement from the theatre. Ironically, the one passage from Act V, Scene 1 that is usually interpreted as his resignation letter (“But this rough magic I here abjure, and when I have requir’d some heavenly music – which even now I do – to work my end upon their senses, that this airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff, bury it certain fadoms in the earth, and deeper than did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book.”) comes from Obid’d Metamorphoses (VII.192–219), partially from the original Latin and partially from Arthur Golding’s English translation. But still, we tend to wonder, did the Bard actually intend to suggest his retirement from the stage?
As the first in its offering of two Shakespearean play for its 2010 season, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival is offering The Tempest, directed by Festival Artistic Director, Deb Alley. As is the case with most of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Tempest deals with young love, in this case between Prospero’s (David Sitler) daughter, Miranda (Katrina Kuntz) and Ferdinand (Benjamin Cole), son of Alonso, the King of Naples (George Judy). The themes of revenge, redemption and forgiveness, along with young love, drive the story and all are intriguingly presented by this talented company under Professor Alley’s expert direction. Set on an enchanted isle which, most believe, was suggested by the “still-vex’d Bermoothes”, a common spelling equivalent for the Spanish, Bermudez, likely based on a 1609 shipwreck off Bermuda, the play is concerned with the shipwreck of the King of Naples’ party and their stranding on an enchanted, foreboding island ruled over by the enigmatic and powerful magician, Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, who, with his daughter, Miranda, was banished and cast to sea a dozen years earlier by his ambitious, usurping brother, Antonio (David Marcotte) with the assistance of the King of Naples. The tempest which casts them off, is no accident of nature. It is, instead, of Prospero’s making, part of his plot to revenge himself upon those who stole his dukedom and exiled him and his daughter to this island.
Serving Prospero, much in the same fashion as Puck serves Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his spiritual servant, Ariel, well-played (and beautifully made up) by Gerson Dacanay. Also among those cast ashore from the shipwreck are the Jester, Trinculo ( Chris Amos) and the butler, Stephano (Patrick New) who encounter the enigmatic Caliban (Kareem Bandealy). Bandealy brings a believability and vulnerability to Caliban that I had not seen before. In my estimation, Caliban is the most complicated, difficult character in the play. I have seen him played as a misshapen monster, a demented seeker of vengeance and a misunderstood dreamer, but Bandealy’s interpretation of the character was new, at least to this reviewer, and, in a word, refreshing. Trinculo and Stephano are, of course, characters thrown in “for the pit,” vulgar comics to please the groundlings, much as the Rude Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. I guess in another life, I must have been a groundling, as I found Amos and New’s Trinculo and Stephano to be delightful.
And I really became emotional when Prospero gave his Act IV, Scene 1 speech (“Our revels now are ended: these our actors – as I have foretold you – were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air; and like the baseless fabric of this vision the cloud- capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve and like this insubstantial pageant faded leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”) I read these lines at the funeral of a close friend of mine, a Shakespearean actor who died too young, a quarter of a century ago. I had a hard time getting those words out then, and I cannot hear them yet without a tear welling up in mine eye.
Again, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival has delivered a truly enjoyable Shakespearean evening, beginning, I might add, with some charming scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew by Bloomington’s TheatresCool group (www.TheatresCool.com) in the courtyard before the main production. As a side note, let me say that it was refreshing to see Shakespeare performed in Elizabethan dress for a change. With the possible exceptions of the histories, Shakespeare is timeless enough to be done in a variety of costume periods, but, being a purist, occasionally I kind of like to see it in the garb that the groundlings at the Globe might have seen. The Tempest will continue July 1, 3, 9, 18, 20, 23 and 28 as well as August 5 and 8. For ticket reservations and additional information, call (309) 438-2535.
Malgre Lui draws a crowd…in spite of himself
Author and musician Malgre Lui is building a following in spite of himself. Malgre Lui is the French stage name of Bloomington-Normal’s Jamison Lee and it translates to “in spite of himself”, and in spite of the exotic name, Lee writes simple candid ballads which can be previewed on Malgre Lui’s Myspace. His debut EP received a favorable review onNPR’s All Songs Considered and is available on Amazon and iTunes. His poetry has appeared in Kansas State University’s Touchstone and Silenced Press.
Lee’s music is self-reflective and slightly melancholic but not without wit and occasional self-parody. During his opening banter Lee described his music as “sort of contemplative and kind of sad” but hoped the crowd found it to be “rigorous and challenging as we expect a lot of poetry to be”. He even jokingly invited audience members to stand beside him and mock him should the mood become too serious. Read more…
Local theater guru, Emmy-winning actress team up for new play
Rehearsing “Faith” for its world premiere at TheatresCool this weekend are, from left, Lori Marmion, Tori Allen, Erika Lecaj (in the title role), Rito Balducci and Sarah Tongren. (Pantagraph/CARLOS T. MIRANDA)
By Dan Craft | email@example.com
WGLT Interview with Charlie Schlenker
Listen to the full Charlie Schlenker Interview (MP3)
Emmy Award Winning Actress Cady McClain 6:27
Live and Local with Kevin Kelly
On the Thursday edition of “Live and Local,” I’ll talk with Kymberly Harris, artistic director of TheatresCool of Bloomington-Normal, about the company’s current production. It’s a play called “Faith,” described as “a darkly funny look at therapy, medication, romance, parents, and even suicide.” Listen here!
Flyover Zone with Hugh Moore
Hugh Moore hosts a radio show, a lively, always-irreverent look at the foibles of human life and the life in our foibles. Joined by my able co-hosts Lana and Sam, we welcome established and emerging artists, writers, musicians, actors, and con men from around the world. Listen to his interview with Kymberly here! (Show #353 and Show #354)
Actress returns to set up shop in hometown
By Dan Craft | firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring Issue: Kids Magazine of Bloomington/Normal
Children are natural storytellers. Their imaginations and emotions and curiosity want to express outward, which is what acting entails. A painter has his canvas and paints, a cellist has her cello, but as an actor we are our own instruments. To paint our picture or play our concerto, we must know how to find and choose the right color inside, the perfect note to play, and execute it outward to bring our character to life.
To express ourselves creatively, to act, requires faith, when life can often trigger fear. To be in touch with one’s own emotions, and then have the courage to express them with great stakes, is a process. In my work as an actor and playwright, I use the method acting techniques I initially learned at the Actors Studio MFA Program. In my process of studying the method, I learned to defy stereotype and instead trust my specific emotional reactions rather than judge them or to try and fit myself into an idea of what I thought my characters reaction should be. This process, I found, had a personal benefit in that it required some of the damaged self-esteem that life brought, as it conveyed: your emotions, your reactions to situations, are valid, and will be celebrated in this art form.
Recognizing this side benefit to method acting, and as a mother of an undeniable little actor, I set out to create a process for children to learn to act informed by the method acting technique. I have adjusted and invented several theatre games and exercises in my work with child and teen actors, one of which is creating a group story which I adapt into a play, and which they perform. The goal of my school is not coach them into child stardom, but to coach them into trusting their own creativity and the power of creative expression.
For teenagers that are serious about pursuing acting, these classes give them the opportunity to learn the skills they need to compete in the business. They are given the opportunity to get head shots and comp cards taken, and send to agents and casting directors. Besides a publicized performance on our stage every ten weeks, our growing reputation also affords our actors performance opportunities, including, casting in Chicago, Michigan, Detroit, and other cities, commercials, Sugar Creek Arts Festival, and other exciting opportunities.
For children and teens who are simply seeking a creative outlet, TheatresCool provides a safe and nurturing environment with high standards for them to learn skills that will help them in any profession of their choosing.
Fundraising plays focus on homeless
By Dan Craft | email@example.com
BLOOMINGTON – Two plays about homelessness opening tonight at Bloomington’s TheatresCool aren’t just dramatizing the problem.
They’re also pitching in to help alleviate it.
A portion of the box office proceeds ($3 per ticket) to “Roses Turn” and “Zen Master Hobo” will be donated to Bloomington’s Safe Harbor homeless shelter through the six-performance run, which ends July 25.
Performances at the storefront space at 403 N. Main St. are 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and July 17, 18, 24 and 25.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students, with reservations recommended at (309) 454-5892.
“Roses Turn,” an original play by TheatresCool director Kymberly Harris, was a finalist in several short play festivals and has been performed off-Broadway in New York.
It deals with a young, well-heeled New York couple who invite Rose, a homeless woman, into their lives.
The second drama, “Zen Master Hobo,” by local playwright Jason A. Vales, centers on Raven, a young homeless man living on the streets of San Francisco.
While searching for food, he encounters Black Bear, a strange but wise older man who becomes a teacher and leads him down the path of enlightenment.
“What we are trying to do is raise awareness of homelessness in the area,” says Francesca Miranda, TheatresCool’s marketing director.
In addition to donating a portion of each ticket proceeds to Safe Harbor, the theater is hosting a special free performance July 16 for practitioners and volunteers for the homeless.
A question-and-answer session will follow.
|Local actors practice skills at TheatresCool|
|Written by Kristen Bahler, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 07 October 2008 00:00|
|The uncontested success of “Wicked” and other spectacular Broadway hits have made a weekend trip to the theater as hip as ever.|
Unfortunately, for those living in and around Bloomington-Normal (in other words, two and a half hours from downtown Chicago), said trip can cost a disheartening amount of time and money, perhaps more than it is worth.
Kymberly Harris, a professional actor and ISU alumna, aims to change that.
“In New York and Chicago there’s plenty of cutting edge theater,” Harris said. “We’re needed here.”
The “we” Harris is referring to is 50 students currently enrolled in the “TheatresCool,” a professional acting community at 403 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington. A quaint space just a few doors from the Coffee Hound, students of all ages practice and perform the techniques taught at the prestigious Actor’s Studio Drama School in New York City, where Harris attended graduate school.
After earning a Master’s in Fine Arts from the studio made famous by James Lipton’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” Harris moved back to Bloomington to raise her son. Hungry to delve back into her beloved art, she decided to open the “TheatresCool.”
“It’s the only school in the Midwest that offers method acting,” Harris said. “We try to stay current and contemporary. We’re the kind of space that you would find in Chicago or New York, we’re not a typical small-town theater. The quality and the standards are very high.”
The “TheatresCool,” which opened in July of this year, practices and performs both classic and contemporary theater.
“The kids write their own plays, adults and teenagers do scenes from existing plays,” Harris said.
Harris added that for every ISU theater student that attends the school, there is a member of the community just as willing to perform.
“We see a lot of different people,” Harris said. “Anyone you could imagine, some want to be actors and some just want a creative outlet.”
As an actor, Harris feels it is essential she stay immersed in her work.
“I’m a professional actor and I think that’s very important. I tell my students that if I ever stop acting, you shouldn’t take my classes.”
Harris recently finished filming, “Making the Man,” a short film that has been to 15 domestic and international film festivals. She has also starred in several off-Broadway plays. Her next project?
“I have a Wii commercial coming out soon,” Harris said.
General information on Harris and the “TheatresCool” can be found at kymberlyharris.com and lrdwebdesign.com/tc/.
Though the school has been open for less than six months, it seems to be doing extremely well.
“We’ve grown from good response,” Harris said. “We’re live, cutting edge and very current. We want people to know that you don’t need to go to the city for that.”
The “TheatresCool” is used for more than just acting lessons, however.
For the last three Fridays, musician Gregg Brown has also performed on Harris’ turf. Brown, an intriguing individual with an undeniable passion for the music he writes, also graduated from ISU.
With music that is equal parts soft and psychedelic, Brown’s music cannot be described as anything other than “new 60’s.”
“I was raise with what is now called classic rock, we just called it rock,” Brown said. “67′ was an utterly amazing moment for music. You couldn’t listen to music that powerful and not do anything. For all the mistakes we made, we were right about a lot of things. I love to carry that energy.”
Brown calls the “Theatrescool” a “great little space,” and it is more than apparent that he enjoys performing.
“I love creating music and I love playing music,” Brown said. “I love to do improve and just kind of jam. Some of the songs that we feature are songs that we just kick off and go. The first time I played [at the school] I passed out instruments and everyone was jamming. Everyone was having a good time.”
Although Brown has been playing music since he was in college, he only recently became serious about taking his passion beyond pastime.
“Some of these songs I have written back in college in the 60’s,” Brown said. “The 90’s was when I put the pieces together. I met the right people and got the right opportunities to become a musician. I started to take these songs and go into the studio and produce them.”
“I think of [my songs] as ‘new 60’s music.’ [They] carry the energy of the time,” Brown added.
Brown’s first CD, “Another Time, Another Being,” will soon be available to download. Those interested can visit Brown’s MySpace page. “I don’t really have a band, I just play with different people and friends in different settings. I like to work with good musicians as well as people who aren’t musicians at all. They don’t know what they can do,” he said.
Whether looking for a place to practice acting skills or listen to live music, Theatrescool offers a Chicago-type venue right here in the heartland.