Perfectly Imperfect

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Take a risk, follow your gut and have a clear vision. These were the beginning foundations of Stacey Lee’s Centre Stage. After that, as they say, the rest is history. With just over 170 students and counting, Stacey has proved that hard work and dedication really does leave the whole world at your feet. Her newest production, “Perfectly Imperfect”, brings together the students’ strengths to create a fantastic empowering production that shares happiness, love and a little bit of magic!

Perfectly Imperfect is a modern take on a very special classic. Tell us more about the show … It’s so special that our students get to see what can happen when you combine a classic and A LOT of re-imagining. 

They all have fantastic imaginations, and the show really complements where they’re at in their abilities to take on well-known characters, but make them their own. 

 Our original musical theatre production is set in our current year, 2019. It is about a young family who are obsessed with perfection — their home, appearance, social status, and showing the world their perfect highlight reel. Behind closed doors, it is anything but perfect. When things really take a turn for the worse, a young lady magically appears in their lives. 

 The audience will be taken through all the ups and downs through our characters, with some very real issues brought to light throughout the production … The comparison game we play through social media, the living to work mentality, and the lack of joy some now feel. 

Never fear! There are some inspirational songs throughout the production, with happiness, love and a little magic triumphing after all! 

 Being a performing arts studio, our audience is in for a real treat! They will experience some incredible acting, singing and dancing from our students, with vibrant colours, magic tricks, a great set and even some red English telephone boxes for our Covent Gardens scene! 

 As far as the music component goes, we have some re-imagined favourites and current hit songs throughout the production. 

Myself and one of my students, Jess Hickey, have written one of the songs especially for her role as Mrs Law, and teacher Kyle Shilling wrote a rap for another song we have re-written. We really don’t do things by halves!

There is so much that goes on behind the scenes. How much preparation goes into the production of the performance? 

 After we were told that the rights had been retracted for the show we had originally planned to do, we knew we would have a five-week delay on starting rehearsals, waiting for another to be approved. We then decided we would write our own show in the July school holidays. My family and I were on the Gold Coast for the weekend when we got the news, so I spent the drive home writing and planning while the kids were sleeping. This included many phone calls and emails with Liz Hall, who played Mary Poppins on the Taree Arts Council production.

From that point on when lessons were finished, and my kids went to bed, I stayed up and kept writing, creating characters, writing songs and re-imagining a stage plot, props, and how many rehearsals it would take to pull a show like this together! Liz and I liaised with Chris Tippett from the MEC and knew it would be the perfect space for us and our performance. 

 From here we held auditions with our students. In a musical like this, we look for all three musical theatre components (singing, acting, dancing) in each prospective lead role. We would never put anyone into a role that felt uncomfortable or if it just wasn’t their thing. Some of our students are incredible writers, country singers, jazz singers, pianists, hip hop dancers – and that’s awesome, as we pride ourselves on making sure the students play to their strengths, so they stay in love with their chosen passion. 

 With these students, we provide other ways for their light to shine, like busking and performing at community events. 

 After the auditions, we selected the students who fit each role best and then allocated our classes to ensemble pieces. 

 Our parents/volunteers have been absolutely incredible in supporting their children and the SLCS team in this process. We work closely with parents of lead characters to ensure they will feel comfortable and confident on the stage, as we know first hand how it feels to learn loads of lines, choreography plus work on their accents and character development.  

 Many parents have been making costumes, helping at rehearsals, offering help with taking measurements of the kids for their costumes, handing out info sheets and so much more. 

 Each Saturday we rehearse from 9 – 4 pm, with Sundays being added in the last three weeks. It has been a lot of hard work from everyone involved, and I’m so excited to see it all come together! 

 What makes this show so special to you?

 It really is something special. Just like the show’s tagline says, “Amazing things can happen if you just believe!” 

 With so many of us just trying to keep up with the advances in technology and the fast pace of life these days, we often forget to look for the joy and stop to enjoy what we have right in front of us. I find it difficult myself being in the start-up phase of the business, taking care of a family, making sure staff, students and parents are happy, looking after the home – the list goes on! 

I know I am not alone in this, and I’m lucky that I get to create something that captures how many of us feel and put it on a stage. There is something cathartic about watching and feeling something like this that can really hit home and maybe even allow for some of us to course correct. 

The creative arts are and always will be an amazing way to express what is happening within ourselves and our communities.  

You have 170 students, which is inspiring considering you only opened the studio in February. How excited are they all for this major performance? 

There have been a couple of times I’ve caught myself standing out front before opening the doors, simply staring at the studio in disbelief. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this happening! 

I started helping friends’ children in my lounge room with their performances and slowly built to the point where we had to move to a home with a granny flat, so I could teach in a more professional manner. I finished up at my full-time job in real estate when I had around 20 students, and from there it grew to 50 in six months! 

It was impossible to teach any more children on my own, and I was still getting loads of enquires. So, I ran with what my gut instinct told me and decided to open a studio where we could have several classes running at once. My husband, Shane, me, my kids Téa and Tyler, friends Troy and Shanna plus one of our teachers, Kyle and his mates turned an empty warehouse into what you see today in three weeks! 

 It seriously felt like we were on The Block and finished painting on the day we opened the doors! 

 It was crazy, but so so worth it. 

You open not only your studio doors but your heart to these kids. How has this been accepted within the community, and what impact does this make on them personally?

This is where I could write for pages and pages. The best thing for me, I guess is that we have created a community. The fact the kids know that the studio is a no judgement zone, they always have each others’ backs, support one another when they feel a little down or make a little mistake is just beautiful.  

When they are here, they can truly be themselves. The teachers and I have a very clear vision of empowering each student through the performing arts, and we find parents comment on it every day. 

Some of our students have had previous mental health issues, social anxiety, depression, lack of self-esteem, but together we gently work through it. Whether it be positive self-expression, finding songs that make them happy, writing about their feelings or simply knowing they “belong” can really change their life. 

Their school teachers have even commented that they have seen a huge improvement in their school work and general social skills. 

I figure if thousands of years ago, music and creativity brought villages and tribes together, we can continue the tradition. It truly is something special to see the kids talking to each other in such positive and encouraging ways and notice the ripple effect that it has. 

I’ve been fortunate to work with local schools, the PCYC Taree and other local programs where we can help empower through the creative arts. Kids need self-expression and to find joy from within. 

My goal is to help build our area into a creative arts hub and really put the Barrington Coast on the map. Sitting on the Cultural Planning Group has helped me to see there are many other community groups that feel the same way, and together we can achieve anything. 

When and where will the show be held, and where do we go to grab tickets? 

 The show is just about sold out! How exciting for our students! It is at the Manning Entertainment Centre on the 16th of November. Tickets can be purchased through the Manning Entertainment Centre’s website: mec.midcoast.nsw.gov.au

 Next year, we are planning on doing three shows and really getting the community involved!

Thanks, Stacey.

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