Acting Coach Builds Community Theatre

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Known professionally as "the starter," actress and acting coach Susan Collins is getting ready to start something new in Hillsboro. Collins has been in the acting business for more than 25 years and has helped clients develop their natural talents and go on to  land roles in projects such as " The Ape," " Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "The Intern," "The Bold and the Beautiful," and "Chicago Med." The New Jersey native has built a successful career out of learning to navigate the complex, highly competitive acting industry and teaching these skills to others. 

Prior to relocating to Hillsboro, Collins lived and worked in New York City (Manhattan), NY, and Los Angeles, CA; acting for television, film and theater, coaching, and public speaking. Her credits include "Star Trek: TheNext Generation," "Murder One," "Profiler," "Roseanne Barr Movie of the Week," "Saved By the Bell," "Saved By the Bell: The College Years" and "Murder She Wrote," amongst others. Professionally known as "the starter” because of her ability to take new actors and unlock their potential, Collins has decided to use this unique ability to start an adult community theatre group in Hillsboro.

She will hold a meeting to discuss the community theatre group at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Event Center of Montgomery County. Already garnering community support, the Event Center's owners, Melanie and Chris Sherer, have graciously donated use of the center for the fledgling group's first meeting in an attempt to help them gain their bearings. The upcoming meeting will discuss information, including meeting times, dates, membership dues and future productions. 

A long-held vision, Collins first began playing with the idea of starting a theatre group when she moved to Hillsboro at the end of 2017. The Collins family (Michael, Susan, eleven-year-old Olivia and ten-year-old Isabella) moved to the area to be closer to Mr. Collins' family (Mike and Janis Collins of Hillsboro) after he suffered from an aneurysm and massive stroke in July 10, 2017.  Mr. Collins is on the mend, and the family is adjusting to small town life. While she is enjoying the slower pace, Collins has not lost her love for acting.

"This is what I do and it is hard not to do it," said Collins with enthusiasm. "I would love to see more community entertainment in Hillsboro and to be part of building a space for local talent to shine."

Collins' love of acting began when she was in kindergarten. She was the youngest person cast in an elementary school play and has been in love with performing ever since.

"Even at that young age, it was never about the spot light. For me, the magic has always been about having the opportunity to bring life into a role and using my gifts to move a room. I love that even if I may not have personally experienced what I am portraying I can bring clarity and connection to the stories of those that have." 

Even after the family's move, Collins has actively maintained her professional acting business, coaching clients via Skype and taking on new, local clients as well. Collins has been testing the waters for the to-be theatre group in several ways. Last year, with the help of Hillsboro School District Superintendent David Powell, she began volunteering her time to lead a theater club for students in the Hillsboro School District.

Kids Theatre Club will resume in the Hillsboro schools on Monday, Sept. 23. The kids class is limited to 15 students and is open to any fourth through twelfth grade student within the district. Orientation for the youth theatre club will be held on Monday, Sept. 16, with sign-up sheets to be sent home in the students back packs. Flyers will also be available at the schools' offices.

While she has a full vision for creating and expanding a community theatre scene in Hillsboro, Collins wants to start small and build a firm foundation. Initially, the community theatre group's membership will consist only of adults and teens ages 15 years and older. 

Members will be asked to pay dues to help offset the fees that come with performing. The group is open to all individuals in the county, of all skill sets; performers as well as those interested in working behind the scenes.

With the goal of building a solid foundation, Collins is planning for the first six months to be a training period for the group. 

She plans to use her coaching skills to get to know the members and to work with them to develop and hone the individual assets they bring to the group.

Collins plans to start performances off small as well. Rather than the traditional play or musical, she would like to start introducing the future theatre group to the community  with  small, black box theatre productions. 

Black box theater, or experimental theater, refers to performances conducted against a simple background -  generally a black backdrop and a flat floor. The appeal of starting with this type of production is that almost any large room can easily be transformed into a black box. 

Theater training programs often employ black box theater because the sets are simple and the space is versatile and easy to change, allowing for flexibility from play to play or from scene to scene. Each of these elements enable start-up theatre companies to keep costs down. 

Black box productions are also considered to be spaces where theatre techniques can be more purely explored, as the focus is on the performers rather than other technical elements. When the group is ready, Collins plans to start with small improvisation shows, two-person scenes and monologues, even a play from local writers. 

While she does plan for the group to hold larger productions, Collins knows that the group will need child performers and wants to get the theatre group off and running before expanding to include youth members.

All interested are invited to attend the theatre group's first meeting, from 3 to 4  p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29. To learn more about Collins' and her professional background visit her website at www.theinnovativeactor.com. Questions about the theatre group may be directed to Collins at susantcollins@gmail.com.   

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