Encore! Encore!

Curtains Up for Theatre South Playhouse’s Students, Performers and Expansion

It is said if you want something done, ask a busy person. Somehow a busy person always finds time to fit one more thing into his or her schedule and is more than willing to help.

Hillary Brook is one busy person. She is a professional actress, Disney performer, talent booking agent, mother of two and director of Theatre South Playhouse.

Hillary Brook is the director of Theatre South Playhouse.

“Every actor dreams of having their own theater company, but I never thought I’d actually have one,” Brook said.

Not only does she have one, her company is also expanding soon to become Theatre South Playhouse, formally Theatre South Orlando.

Brook holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre with a minor in directing from The Boston Conservatory. Her New York City acting career includes performing with The Metropolitan Opera and in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, in addition to appearances in commercials and on TV shows Law & Order and Sex in the City.

She was also assistant casting director for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In short, Brook has spent her entire professional life performing, directing, producing and teaching.

In 1998, she left the Big Apple and came to Orlando and Disney to portray several different singing princesses and various sea creatures in the Finding Nemo show, in which she still performs to this day. Brook also finds time to appear in local musical theater productions to the delight of Winter Haven and Orlando area audiences.

Theatre South Orlando got its start at the Rosen JCC by offering acting classes for adult members. Soon it became evident that parents wanted their children to perform, rather than take to the stage themselves. Now, Theatre South Playhouse finds that 60 percent of its productions are youth-based and 40 percent, in which the professional teaching artists perform, are for an adult audience. It is important to note that all of the teachers/talent pool are experienced theme park performers with résumés from Broadway, off-Broadway and more.

Theatre South Playhouse offers an extensive summer program for campers of all ages. In fact, it is running 11 different camps during this, its ninth summer, each ending with a full-scale production. Ten of the camps run for a week, and three are currently sold out. Camp Wicked is the only two-week experience, ending with a performance tribute to Wicked, The Musical.

During the school year, the theater offers group classes and private lessons in voice, piano, guitar and acting after school. There are also dance classes for kindergartners through adults. The semester-long dance, theater and music classes end with a recital, and performance-based classes produce a showcase of talent or a recognized musical theatre production. The Lion King Experience and 13, The Musical were recent tremendous successes, and coming up next are Annie, Jr. and Legally Blonde, Jr., with auditions scheduled for August.

Brook strongly believes in the lessons learned by youth from acting in an ensemble performance. Aside from technique and theater etiquette, children acquire such skills as a sense of character and working together in a group, where everyone plays an equally important part. The cast becomes a family working toward a common goal. In order to become a good actor, “Everyone needs to come from a humble place,” Brook said.

Theatre South Playhouse recently attained nonprofit status through the state of Florida, which means the company can begin fundraising to pay for its new performance space. Located in The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, the 100-seat intimate theater will be called Theatre South Playhouse. Shortly after the June opening, its first professional performance season will be announced. The Disney Foundation has recognized this company as an accredited not-for-profit organization, and a search for financial support has begun.

The acting company at Theatre South Playhouse was profoundly affected by the shootings at Pulse nightclub and will be presenting a volunteer, fundraising performance called We Still Believe, a tribute to Pulse on June 12 at 7 p.m. Donations will go toward scholarships and to Acts of Love and Kindness through the One Orlando Alliance.

For more information, to become a Theatre South “Player” by making a charitable donation, to attend a performance, or to book a performer for an upcoming event, visit theatresouthplayhouse.com. ♥


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