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Last updated: Mon. Aug. 18, 2014 - 09:50 am EDT

Lights Up! performance this Friday shines the spotlight on home-schoolers' talent

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Performance as worship

WHAT: Audience of One presents “Lights Up!,” a series of short skits and theatrical and musical performances

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Salvation Army Community Center, 2901 N. Clinton St.

COST: Free, but a freewill offering will be accepted to benefit the Salvation Army and the local all for One Productions faith-based theater group.

INFORMATION: 241-3378, lsellis4@comcast.net or www.audienceofoneftw.com.

NOTE: Audience of One 2014-2015 season includes “Mill Girls,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “Don Quixote”Jan. 30-31, 2014, and “A Walk in the Woods”, “The Tales of Snow White,” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court”, April 17-18, 2015. All performances will be held at the Salvation Army Community Center, 2901 N. Clinton St.

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For some, the word “theater” conjures up visions of a grand structure — Fort Wayne's Arts United Center, Chicago's Oriental Theatre, or New York City's Carnegie Hall.

For others, “theater” is a verb — dancing, singing, acting.

For Lisa Ellis, theater is education.

Ellis is administrative and creative director for Audience of One, a theater troupe of homeschoolers who will present “Lights Up!” Friday evening at the Salvation Army Community Center. The two-hour production showcases group talent while raising funds for the Salvation Army and for all for One Productions (afO), an affiliated theater group which mentors the young thespians.

“This event will feature singers, musicians, dancers, bands and actors,” Ellis says, “... a great opportunity for folks to enjoy local talent and reach out to the community.”

A HOME-SCHOOLING MOM

Ellis and husband Terry have home-schooled their five daughters for nearly a decade.

“We loved the lifestyle,” she says. “We bought an RV, and the kids have seen 46 states!”

An actor since stepping on stage in middle school, Ellis saw her children continue learning while accompanying her to rehearsals for afO productions.

“My kids have always loved to go to rehearsal with me,” she says. “They learn storylines, vocabulary and interpretation of classic literature. It's like English class, and they don't even know it!”

Ellis' friend, Miriam Kroeker, suggested the two form a theater/dance group. Kroeker would teach dance, and Ellis would direct theater. In 2010, 35 students responded.

“It was exciting seeing the enthusiasm of the kids,” Ellis recalls. “They really inspired me. I loved how they came up with ideas and ignited creativity in each other.”

Although Kroeker was unable to continue, Ellis wanted to sustain the momentum, especially since the students were begging her to do so.

“We have a goal to perform God-honoring theater,” she explains, “and by doing that, we train kids to be communicators, to be servants and to empathize with others.”

Audience of One was chosen for the group's name.

“The name is a testimony,” Ellis explains. “Perform like God is the only being watching. He's really the only one that matters. Tell the story. Be the story. And give it your best — every rehearsal, every line, every time.”

“It's a form of worship,” she adds. “Most of our kids take the philosophy to heart, so our rehearsals are very productive.”

MANY PARTNERS

Audience of One membership doubled as they expanded to include students from Leo, Ossian, New Haven and Monroeville. Along with students who want to perform, the program also draws home-schoolers who want to learn lights, sound, set design and construction, costuming, and stage management skills.

Jeff Salisbury and Evan Fritz came onboard to assist with script selection, share lighting and sound expertise, and help Ellis with general direction and production. Other parents and community volunteers provide practical help with costuming, set dressing, acting instruction, and “sage advice,, says Ellis.

Last spring, the group partnered with the Salvation Army to stage three of their six annual one-act shows on the expansive stage in the sprawling northside complex. This summer, the Salvation Army Center became the home stage for Audience of One.

“I'm so excited the Salvation Army has opened its doors to us,” says Ellis, who is anticipating the two uniting to serve the community. “Last year, we visited nursing homes at Christmas with SA volunteers. ... This year, since we are training kids on their light and sound system, we can offer them skilled help during special events and fundraisers.”

LIGHTS UP!

This Friday's showcase features 17 acts ranging from singers and dancers to monologues and skits.

Eleven year-old Tori Cwanek performs “Sorcerer," an original composition. The piece begins with a deceptively simple chordal progression before exploding into a colorful and complex musical statement of syncopated rhythms and melodic lines that send her fingers flying over the piano keys.

Jamaica Ellis and Addison Agen, members of a youth band at C2G Ministries, sing the popular worship song, “Oceans,” accompanying themselves on guitar and bongo.

Sisters Hannah and Maddie Gerig sing “What is This Feeling?” from the hit musical “Wicked,” their staging drawing a hearty guffaw from Salisbury during a recent rehearsal.

Newcomer Cooper Beer entertains with a Shakespearean version of “The Three Little Pigs,” playing all four parts of the popular children's story.

Interspersed among pianists, singers, dancers and a violinist are several skits. “MOTB” chronicles the mishaps of a wedding; “Stuff in the Sink” describes “ lethal junk,” “toxic waste,” and how mom “reaches in there with her bare hands!” Both skits elicit more belly laughs from Salisbury.

It will be a fun-filled evening, says Ellis.

“As we work together on something,” says Ellis, “all of us — actors, directors, the whole team — become a community with one goal: to do all of our work as worship.”

nsfeatures@news-sentinel.com


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