By Emily Glory Peters
It’s winter season at Centre Stage performing arts studio, and that means holiday entertainment. This year, the musical of choice is “Frozen, Jr.,” a spin on the wildly popular Disney film, with many of the roles filled by local kids and youth—more than 60 of them, in fact—all students looking to hone their skills as a fledgling performing artists.
For these students, Centre Stage has served as both a training ground and performance outlet to supplement kids’ exposure to performing arts in school. For some, it’s their only exposure.
“We believe everyone deserves a chance to discover the joys of music and theater,” says Keely Milliken, founder of Centre Stage, Inc. As more schools cut performing arts programs, she notes, fewer students have the chance to sing, dance or act, making studios like hers critical to creating not only more balanced students, but human beings.
“At Centre Stage, it’s not just about putting on a great show, it’s about teaching students great technique with emotional support in a safe environment. We coach the whole person,” she says. “Our motto is that Centre Stage kids don’t get in trouble—they’re in rehearsal!”
Milliken sits at the heart of the hubbub at Centre Stage, serving as its founder, director and one of several instructors. Before establishing the theater school, she too was a young kid in Monrovia with an itch to sing, but struggled to find opportunities to train and perform outside of church. Ultimately, she started teaching voice classes out of her own living room, and soon transformed a small class into a full-fledged school.
That was twenty years ago. Today, Centre Stage offers children of all ages and ability levels instruction in private and group vocal performance, musical theatre acting techniques, piano and musical production. What’s more, Centre Stage is also a nonprofit that produces full-length Broadway musicals and offers musical theatre instruction at local schools. Doing so means partnering with sponsors to keep tuition low, classes accessible, and the quality of instruction at its highest caliber.
“We fundraise all year to offer scholarships for students and make partnerships with local businesses and service groups,” Milliken explains, sharing that sponsors receive year-end tax benefits in addition to advertising opportunities. “We rely on these personal partnerships to help us offer programs to all families, regardless of financial means, and to support the arts in our community.”
With the last few performances of “Frozen Jr.” taking place this weekend, the next Centre Stage production will create fresh opportunities for students to lift their voices and for sponsors to make a creative impact the entire community gets to enjoy. For Milliken, seeing that impact never gets old.
“Performing arts gives these children more than just learning notes—it gives them empathy for others, self-esteem and self-expression,” she says. “Those are lifelong lessons for all.”
Tickets for “Frozen Jr.” are still available at www.centrestageinc.com. To learn more about Keely Milliken and the Centre Stage team, contact them at 626.297.4758 | email@example.com and follow along on Facebook @centrestageinc and Instagram @centrestagemonrovia.