The Fremont Podcast

Episode 99: Kid's on Broadway to StarStruck with Courtney Stokes

November 24, 2023 Ricky B Season 2 Episode 99
The Fremont Podcast
Episode 99: Kid's on Broadway to StarStruck with Courtney Stokes
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever been backstage at a theater production and wondered what it takes to make the magic happen? Join us for a captivating conversation with Courtney Stokes, the dynamic Programming Director and Digital Marketing Manager of the Starstruck Theater. Courtney takes us on a nostalgic journey through her life in theater, starting from a tender age, and how the company - once known as Kids on Broadway - has evolved over the years.

Our foray into the theatrical world doesn't stop there, as we shift gears from performing to directing. Hear firsthand from the creative mind behind a production of "The Little Mermaid" at the Smith Center for Performing Arts. The transition from being in the spotlight to being the guiding force behind it is no small feat, and our guest paints a captivating picture of this change, while also giving us a sneak peek into the upcoming show which promises to be a spectacle with a live orchestra and flying effects.

Stay tuned for this episode packed with theater, passion, unexpected friendships, and a shared love for the arts.

To learn more about StarStruck, check out their website here.

To follow StarStruck on Instagram, go here. 

Check out our new podcast focused on Niles CA called the Cast of Niles. You can find episodes on almost any podcast platform. You can also find it here.

Also, Petrocelli Homes has been a key sponsor for the Fremont Podcast almost from the beginning. If you are looking for help or advice about buying or selling a home, or if you are looking for a realtor, get in touch with Petrocelli Homes on Niles Blvd in Niles.

Additionally, Banter Bookshop is the best little bookshop in Fremont. They are a sponsor of that podcast. And we are excited to have them as a partner.

Intro and Outro voiceovers made by Gary Williams. Check out garywilliams.org.

This episode was edited by Andrew C.

Scheduling and background was done by Sara S.

This is a Muggins Media Podcast.

Speaker 1:

I'm Gary Williams. Your reviews help other people find this podcast. If you would please leave a review on iTunes?

Speaker 2:

I just ghosted New York. I never went back again because the kids here are so inspiring and so incredible and I really feel like they are what theater is about to me. I've had a great time as a performer myself. At some point it's very tiring.

Speaker 1:

Coming to you straight from Fremont, california. This is the Fremont podcast, dedicated to telling the stories of the past and present of the people and places of the city of Fremont, one conversation at a time.

Speaker 3:

Ricky wanted me to go to the California School for the Blind and interact with their tactile map. It's got everything and of course it does Everything down to the divisions in the parking slots. They've even got little maple leaves for the garden, the buildings are smooth and the grass is a rougher texture, and the pathways between the buildings are smooth like the buildings. I'm going to use my nail for the braille. This particular map can be found on Gall Debt Drive, corner of Walnut Avenue and Gall Debt Drive, near the bus stop that everyone uses as a doggie poop bag dump. The buildings of this campus don't go up to number 99. But this is episode 99 of the Fremont podcast.

Speaker 1:

Now here's your host, Ricky B.

Speaker 4:

But you go by Stokes here.

Speaker 1:

Okay, all right very good.

Speaker 4:

So I have Courtney Stokes with me today on the podcast. She is not the founder, but your mother is the founder. What's your role here at Starstruck?

Speaker 2:

Oh, my goodness, so many things. My official title is Programming Director and Digital Marketing Manager, but I'm currently directing the Little Mermaid.

Speaker 1:

Oh, very cool.

Speaker 2:

And I teach a bunch of our classes, all sorts of things.

Speaker 4:

We all do everything here, and you have been a part of Starstruck since you were six years old if I understand correctly.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that is right.

Speaker 4:

How did you get plugged in at six years old?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's all my mom. We have videos. I'm in diapers and I have an older sister, kristen Stokes Kristen's dancing on the fireplace and my mom's holding me going Kristen sing cat, sing cat.

Speaker 4:

So we had no choice to do anything different, you just had to do it.

Speaker 2:

I mean, we had choices, but this is all our family's never been.

Speaker 4:

It was either that or go to bed, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we live, breathe. Musical theater.

Speaker 4:

So your mom is the founder of Starstruck. Okay, and not to date you or tell your age, but like how long has Starstruck been around then?

Speaker 2:

Our official founding year is 1995.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so we started out touring around to.

Speaker 2:

We used to sing a lot at the hub here in Fremont in different old age homes and eventually, oh, this is where we need my mom in here. Eventually we started performing at what was formerly Broadway West over at Five. Corners. So we started doing sit down shows there where the audience would come to us. But it's a very small like 50, 60 seat theater.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I did an interview with the made up theater that's there now and we actually did the interview on the platform, on the stage there. Oh yeah, many memories. I was like, yeah, this is a very small, very small space.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I can smell the smoke machine just thinking about that theater. So that's where we did our first couple sit down shows where the audience would come to us Okay. But then, you know, we outgrew the space and we had an opportunity to go up to a Lone College and that's really where we've been ever since.

Speaker 3:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

So in the early 2000s I want to say like 2003 or 2004, we started going up to a Lone.

Speaker 4:

That's cool yeah it seems like a Lone. So I did an interview with the new president of a Lone just a couple weeks ago and the episode just came out. But it seems like there's so many things that are connected to Lone that started at a Lone or that have been involved at a Lone. We interviewed the candlelighters that did the recent Haunted House and they started up at a Lone on the property where a Lone College is now. So it's like that's a there's a connection point there, but that's cool. So most of your shows, or all your shows right now, take place at a Lone College.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the majority of the shows whenever we're performing in Fremont, which is most of the time, are at the Smith Center. At a Lone College. We've performed at both their outdoor amphitheater which is always really fun and a lot of work, but really fun and inside their Smith Center theater.

Speaker 4:

There Okay, very cool. So it hasn't always been Starstruck though. What was the, the name? What, what is? Is there been more names or just one other name before it became Starstruck yeah?

Speaker 2:

just the one other name. We're originally originally called Kids on Broadway. Okay, and that was the name for the first at least five years maybe 10, until we became an official nonprofit theater, and then, of course, some preschool or something somewhere already have the name, so we had to change it. But even then, you know, my mom has always really incorporated my sister and I because we were still so young, which I had to switch the name but I really vividly remember us all throwing out different titles and it's always really been a collaboration, from the time we were so little between my sister and I and my mom.

Speaker 4:

So that's really fun, that's cool, that's really cool. So when you guys, you know you have those videos of when you were six years old like I mean, was it was the original cast like you and your sister or did you have friends? Or like how in the world did like what did it start with? Like who did it start with?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was really me and my sister and I would say more so my sister's friends. Still two of my sister's best friends to this day Nicole Randolph, who's now Nicole Oder. She's a teacher here in Fremont.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, lots of Fremont things.

Speaker 3:

Nice, nice yeah.

Speaker 2:

And her other friend, Jessica. It was them and a few other people that were more my sister's age, so I was usually the baby for a while Okay. And then but it was really not to date my sister now but she graduated high school in 2003. And so it was. That was really the kickoff point in my sister's older high school years where we really started doing some serious, big shows.

Speaker 4:

Why did your mom I mean, besides, you know, when you get theater in your blood, because I've talked about kind of my history growing up on previous episodes and I was in theater, I traveled doing theater, and so I know why like I would want to do something like that, but what was kind of the impulse behind your mom starting this, you know, when you guys were kids? Like, does she have a particular history with doing theater or was this something that I don't know? What made her want to do this?

Speaker 2:

Yeah well, music has always been in her life as well. My grandmother sang with big jazz bands and there was always music playing in her house. So her and her brother did the musicals in high school and would always have their record player going with Oklahoma and Judy Garland and all of the greats. So she majored in theater at San Diego State and really that's where she got her well-rounded view of all things theater and costumes and lights and everything. And then, performed for herself for a while until she got married and had us and took a little break while we were really little. But then, you know, after being at home for so many years, she was like okay.

Speaker 1:

I want to do something.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so it was her way of just getting up and having fun with her kids, and that's why we literally just started in our garage with a couple friends that came over as we put together these musical medleys. Yeah, that's awesome.

Speaker 4:

So you guys, so you guys started in the garage and then you set about four or five years into it. Then it became an actual like a company, a nonprofit right. So yeah, I think that's great too, because I think to be able to support the community through the arts, but to be able to do it in a way that really says, yeah, we're here for the community and to be able to benefit them that way, but we're so. So right now we're sitting in a space off of Osgood, which is in the Irvington district area, but you guys, you guys occupy like multiple spaces on this office front here, right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so what all takes place down here?

Speaker 2:

Oh, my goodness, Anything and everything. We are very lucky to have so many rehearsal spaces that are really ours, so in one building we have all of our set building going on. Mark Aragon, who lives in Niles. He's been with us since his son is my age, so it's. I'll pause for a second. So we're really comprised. Everybody that works for us is really comprised of people whose kids that started in the company and their kids have since grown up and moved on, and the parents have stayed around.

Speaker 1:

Oh wow, Everybody here at Such a Labor of Love. That's cool.

Speaker 2:

So Mark, he's been around since the early 2000s and just started as a parent volunteer building the sets, and now he's the master carpenter. And then we have Nancy Godfrey, who has been our music director for I think 20 years now. Her daughter also was around my era, early 2000s, and she has stayed with us this whole time. So that's really cool. And then so Mark's son Jordan and Nancy's daughter Julianne and I all three of us ended up being roommates in New York City, where we were all professional actors together.

Speaker 4:

So it's really like that's awesome the reach goes so much further beyond these buildings.

Speaker 3:

That's cool.

Speaker 2:

It's lifelong connections and they're all in my wedding and everything.

Speaker 4:

That's awesome, yeah, so you know, let's take a quick rabbit trail. What did you do in New York City? Like what was your experience there? Like when did you go? How long were you there? What did you do?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, I got my BFA in Musical Theater from UC Irvine.

Speaker 3:

Okay.

Speaker 2:

And then I moved two weeks after graduating to the city and because I had a showcase there, and so I got an agent and just a lot of actor things, lots of auditioning, lots of babysitting, that's right. So you know, got to perform at different regional theaters across the country and my favorite thing I got to do is perform in Japan. I toured the Tokyo.

Speaker 1:

Philharmonic.

Speaker 2:

Orchestra for three months and was lucky enough to go back a few years again later after that. That's cool, so that was incredible and then kind of the last thing I did where I auditioned in New York is I got to do a brand new Stephen Schwartz music review that premiered on a cruise ship, on Princess Cruises. I also got to work with a whole Broadway team to create that show. But also awesome experience with Stephen Schwartz. But that's also where I met my husband and ready Like five days after being on the ship. So yeah we did a couple ship contracts together and then we were ready to get married.

Speaker 4:

So that's what brought us back to Fremont in the Bay Area. Where was he from South Africa? Okay, wow, that's awesome.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, moved across the world from me.

Speaker 4:

That's amazing, lucky girl.

Speaker 2:

What a cool story.

Speaker 4:

What a cool story. That's really fun. We'll be right back. You can hear the rest of this conversation in just a moment. It's that time of year again when everyone starts getting sniffles and sneezes and coughs. Well, howler's Pharmacy is here to help. They have been in our community for decades. So whether it's a seasonal issue or whether it's something that you have to take care of regularly, howler's Pharmacy is here to help you find exactly what you need. Check them out. On the corner of Fremont and Peralta in downtown centerville, milk and Honey Cafe is a family-owned restaurant located at 342-65 Fremont Boulevard. Right now they are offering a mid-autumn festival family meal special for dining or to go. You got to check it out. Just drop in or give them a call and ask them more about it. To find out more about the best family-friendly Taiwanese restaurant in Fremont, go to milkandhoneycafecom or check them out on their Facebook page and Instagram. Gembielectric exists to empower your production. If you're a business owner, you know there's nothing that you want more than to focus on what you do best so that you can grow your business. Don't let electrical problems or projects stop you from your greatest production. Call GemBiElectric and let them help you empower your production today. And now back to our conversation. So you did that, you came back home and now you're, and you came back to this to help your mom with what she was doing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so right as the ship contract was ending, were they doing little? They were doing Little Mermaid. Actually, we've done the show once before in 2016. And so that's when I was on the cruise ship and so, as my mom was here directing it, she's like, oh my gosh, courtney's the real life, ariel, she's out in the ocean, falling in love with her prince Eric.

Speaker 4:

That's awesome so that was funny.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome, my man from another world. And so then, pretty shortly after that, they were doing a small production of You're a Good man, charlie Brown, and one of our studios here is also like a little kind of black box theater, so she needed a director for it. So she said, hey, your contract's wrapping up, why don't you just come direct the show for a couple months? You and Andretti can see what it's like to live together on land, and then you can go back to New York if you want to. After, well, I never went back. I never actually even went back to pack up my own room, like my roommates sent in my stuff back for me no way.

Speaker 4:

That's hilarious, that's awesome.

Speaker 2:

I just ghosted New York. I never went back again because the kids here are so inspiring and so incredible and I really feel like they are what theater is about to me. I've had a great time as a performer myself, but at some point it's very tiring. You miss a lot of family holidays and events and the people that really know you and have been in your life for so long. So being here at Starstruck it's really the best of all worlds where. I get to do what I love theater. I get to pass on that passion to the next generation and I get to be with friends that are like family, my actual family, and build my own family. And I don't have to take the subway every day.

Speaker 5:

I get to look at beautiful California so it's really.

Speaker 2:

I didn't think I would ever end up back in the place where I grew up.

Speaker 5:

No one wants to do that when they're young.

Speaker 2:

They think, oh, that would be such a failure if I was still in Fremont, however many years later. But really, it's been really magical and really cool.

Speaker 4:

I wanted to ask you that. I was like what did you prefer or did you enjoy performing more than what you do now? And it seems like each of those opportunities had their place and their time for you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I love performing. It's really as an actor you have to have such a thick skin which I'm sure you know and the months and months of auditioning, going to sometimes three auditions a day. When you're in New York it's every day in New York is the best day of your life and could be the worst day of your life, and sometimes it's both things in one day. It's so awesome and so hard. So I remember actually I had spent an entire year auditioning and didn't get anything for the full year. I was so drained and finally, on one day I had two different callbacks and ended up booking both things, one of which was the Japan tour and another thing was a production of Footloose at Kansas City Starlight. So I had just finished doing the show at Kansas City. It was just a complete two-week contract you rehearse for one week and you perform for one week and you're done.

Speaker 4:

Wow, I mean, you're done.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, because it's in an amphitheater that holds like 8,000 people, so that's why you only perform for one week. It's really nuts. There are a bunch of really huge Broadway names in the show but there was no connection. It just felt like a factory going through there and I was so excited to finally book something, but I was like this is like is it Not really what I wanted, yeah it was. The people were like just okay, not the warmest. I went okay. And then I made a pit stop here in Fremont to see our production of All Shook Up at Starstruck, before I was going to go out to Japan. And at the end of All Shook Up it was in the Eloni Amphitheater. I was standing at the back and I just started sobbing.

Speaker 1:

And my mom said honey, what's?

Speaker 2:

wrong and I went. These kids have so much passion, they're having so much fun up there, they love this, and that was not my experience the last two weeks with these professional actors making this big paycheck, so I went. This is what it's about, is the real connection with the people that really know you and love you while having fun, so that's awesome.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I think we can take so many good things sometimes and turn them into. I don't know if we try to commercialize them or we try to industrialize them, I guess, if you, will we turn them into something that has the elements of what is supposed to be magical about it?

Speaker 3:

or special about it.

Speaker 4:

But then it just becomes not that.

Speaker 3:

Right.

Speaker 4:

If you have enjoyed this podcast, consider supporting it with a small gift at buy me a coffee. Comm slash, the Fremont podcast. Thank you for your support and thanks for listening. And that can happen with anything, you know, but I do. I do agree with you the closest, some of the closest relationships I have in my life were from people that I traveled with, you know, and it was years ago, but to this day, like the people that I traveled with, I spent years with, or summers with, or even just weeks with, there's some of the closest relationships that I still have, you know, and I do think that there there is a. I think what you're doing and I've not really experienced I've never been a star truck show show.

Speaker 1:

I know it's horrible, right yeah?

Speaker 4:

I've never been to a star struck show but I have. But I've seen stuff, I've seen what you've done and I've met like we had a couple girls who you know we're involved, yeah, yeah, we had them on the on the podcast, so I was able to meet them and hear them talk about star struck, you know. But I think that the environment and the culture that is created in a place like this, doing what you're doing, engaging with one another, really just kind of living those moments together in a special way, they're just they form bonds that are just really really untouchable you know, and really last a lifetime.

Speaker 2:

They do yeah they do.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, and so I do think that it's. I think it's a special place, and when you turn that into just let's, just, you know, dump you into place for a week, give it all you got, and then it's just like you just don't feel that right, yeah, yeah, that's yeah.

Speaker 2:

So that's really what we're not about, and we really want to you know just Love being here and I think a lot of times now. You know, the kids are up against so much at school and whatever Scores on tests and to get into the best college, and it's so much pressure that these kids are facing. And sometimes we do Feel that here where parents, often more so than the kids, will say well, they took three classes, so how come they're not the lead now? Yeah, it's not about.

Speaker 1:

That's not how it works.

Speaker 2:

It's a team sport, I know everyone wants to be the leading role, but it really really is a team sport and yeah you can sit back and relax and love your ensemble role and then the next show you're a lead, and then next show You're back in the ensemble. If you can love it all that, that's the type of person that should that's great here with us.

Speaker 4:

That wants to do? Yeah, yeah, yeah, the the the conversation that I had with Ellie and Buffy. They were talking about how they first met because they were going for the same role and I came over who ended up getting the Roll each time and they're like come on, I want that role you know. Yeah, but yeah, they became friends over that, you know. And then, and then, when the other one finally got a lead role, you know they support the other one, supported, supported her. You know so great that's great on your friends.

Speaker 2:

Our callbacks for Matilda were the cutest things I've ever seen. I think it was five little girls that were all called back from Matilda and they were here all day. Oh man, all the different characters, those girls, oh my gosh. By the end I think the beginning of the day. I don't know if any of them knew each other, but by the end of the day. They were like they were all standing arm in arm. Every time one girl went up, they'd all scream and cheer for her.

Speaker 4:

It was so magical and so sweet. So that's what we love. That's right, that's what we want to do. That's great. That's great. So you know what? Where did you go to high school here? I went to Mission San Jose and did they have a theater program there when you were there?

Speaker 2:

They did at the time I think sadly, they don't have anyone anymore.

Speaker 3:

Hi class of 96 here, I'm sorry what?

Speaker 4:

Like were you involved in the theater program?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I did their shows, and I was also really involved in their choir with miss Glover. Oh, that's cool, yeah.

Speaker 4:

so how did how did that experience compared to, like with starstruck offers, like is there what's the what's the difference? I mean, obviously you're doing work with students that you are in classes with or at least you see every day. But then there are people that are really like this is something they, they really want here too. I mean, what was there a relatable experience, or was it kind of different, or how did that? I mean, obviously your mom started this too, so that was a little bit different and funny enough.

Speaker 2:

Our sweet theater teacher and Riley Maybe she'll listen to this she, you know, had a health problem happened my sophomore year.

Speaker 4:

So guess who took her spot to finish out the year and then the year two after my mom, lori Stokes, so you could get away from it Good thing people are like how do you spend so much time with your mom?

Speaker 2:

I'm like no, we actually really like each other.

Speaker 4:

Was your mom hard on you like. I know that sometimes when you have like a Parent who's like like I coached my son's football team and you know I was exceptionally hard on him compared to the rest of the kids because I didn't want there to be a sense of favoritism, right. But I also wanted him to realize that he can't get away with things because, just because he's my son, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So Definitely I. She really always did her best to not show favoritism to me and my sister, always during callbacks, whenever she would come home. She's tight-lipped, she wouldn't share any secret info with me and you know, I would hear it through the grapevine from other people. Well, she just got this because she's the daughter. Blah, blah, blah. So in, in fact, she says that she used to. It would be against me to be her daughter. What am I trying to say? Um, she would. A lot of times I'd end up getting the smallest role possible. If there was anybody else that could do the role besides me, it would go to that other person, was kind of how her brain yeah always worked, yeah, but also she was so busy directing the show and she gives so much stuff to look at it. Yeah me and my sister. She's like, you guys are on your own, go do your own makeup.

Speaker 3:

You know, like.

Speaker 1:

I don't have time to baby, you and coddle you and whatever so yeah, that's cool.

Speaker 4:

Billy Roy's burgers in Centerville is a great place to enjoy family food and great service. You can find them off the corner of Thornton Avenue and Fremont Boulevard in Centerville. If you are looking to buy or sell your home, look no further than Petracelli homes. You can find out more about them at Petracelli homescom or pay Jennifer a visit in downtown Niles. You're directing little mermaid. So you came back for a little mermaid from the cruise ship and now you're directing little mermaid. Well yeah.

Speaker 2:

This is the first time in the company's almost 30 year history that my mom is not directing one of our main stage shows, so this is a really big deal yeah and it's a big task that I am put up with, but it's been really fun and, of course, I've had a lot of support from Laurie, my mom, and she is popping into rehearsals and she's still around. She's not retired. We would like to make that clear she's not retired. But yeah, she did. She had the opportunity to go on a awesome vacation for a month with my dad.

Speaker 1:

Oh, who has been retired for a long time waiting very patiently.

Speaker 2:

So she got to go do her awesome vacation and this was kind of my first time of seeing like okay, can, can I do this big show.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I've directed a bunch of the classes and camps and things and I've co-directed with her on the several main stages. But yeah, so this is the first time.

Speaker 4:

What are the challenges that you've discovered between performing and the now directing, like? What are the? I mean they? Obviously there's a shift and there's a different, like a Different posture, I guess, if you will, or a different presence that you have in that. So what are the challenges that you found now being a director versus just getting up there and performing?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that one of the most interesting things as a performer, becoming a director, is how do you put into words something that you may naturally already do. So Trying to explain to the kids how to phrase Something in a song might be something that I already do, so I go okay, so I stretch this word, I put on this consonant, what words am I emphasizing? So how to really break that down so that someone else can write also, replicate it or yeah, do it and also make it, their own it's hard. You have to hold yourself back to not just go say the line like this you really want them to cultivate their own ideas of the characters and stuff.

Speaker 4:

So yeah, yeah, when you marinate it and was kind of a part of who you are, there is a. There is a whole different process of breaking that. You know what becomes intuitive to you down to Like. You need to process it step by step this way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 4:

I found that I have a, I have a good friend that I traveled with for many years and she was just so good at I mean, it just all came naturally, but she knew how to break it down into a really really like accessible Way without actually, you know, spoon feeding.

Speaker 1:

You say, it like this you know, right.

Speaker 4:

So and and I admire somebody who can do, who can do that there's a lot of work. Yeah, it is.

Speaker 2:

I think something that has helped me with it is from teaching the classes for so many years now. I've been back since 2017, so Really I taught like a little class that I called kids on Broadway, which Named after our original. It was a class for five to seven year olds, which usually we don't go that young, but for this class we do. But it was really teaching our youngest kids, the five to seven year olds, the basics of theater. That have been the building blocks for my foundation as a director now, because even the high schoolers that have been doing this for years Sometimes they still don't know upstage from downstage that which way to what words mean what, so I go, okay, everybody. Let's go back to our kids on Broadway level. So I do think my approach as a director to this show is I want a fantastic show, of course, sure. I like, I love teaching while directing. Yeah so I I want it to be a learning experience for the kids in addition to having a great Production at the end.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, yeah, that's awesome, very cool. So a little mermaid is gonna be coming out in January, is that right? Yeah, so tell me a little bit about it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, it is going to be a full spectacular, amazing Broadway style Disney musical. We open January 12th at the Smith Center for Performing Arts at a Loni College and we run Fridays, saturdays and Sundays until January 28th. We have a full live orchestra. Which is really becoming more and more rare these days. Yes, yes so we're really lucky for our orchestra led by Nancy Godfrey. We also have ZFX flying coming in, so to create some of the swimming effects, like for almost all of part of your world. Ariel is actually flying.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

Really cool in the rescue. When Eric falls off the boat, then it's like he's floating through water nice saving him. And then, of course, scuddle, who actually flies in the air. Yeah so really cool technical elements to be seen, incredible costumes by Diane Sherboff. So yeah it's, it's gonna be really awesome, awesome for all ages, yeah.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I've seen some of the photos that you guys have done and posted on social media. They look great costumes look great characters look amazing. So I imagine I can't wait to see what you guys can do when you know they're on the, on this, on the stage. That's really really cool yeah what's your favorite part of the show so far? Like you have a. Do you have a part that maybe? Maybe I shouldn't say that, because then I Know everyone's gonna be waiting for, everyone's gonna be like yeah.

Speaker 2:

I do think we have, I mean, the whole thing of little mermaid is. Everybody loves her voice.

Speaker 4:

Yeah right.

Speaker 2:

So we have some incredible voices in the show. Ariel is incredible.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Eric Sebastian Ursula, the whole crew. Really a lot, a lot of talent up on that stage and also great Choreography and amazing dancing. So it's I mean triple threats, all of them really that's great.

Speaker 4:

So I yeah, it's really yeah. So when you guys do shows, I mean, how many shows total is that? That's probably what about.

Speaker 2:

I believe there are nine. Yeah yeah, we have nine performances and we have two student matinees, actually as well. So a lot of the elementary schools from the area come up. We have two different Thursdays where it's just all Third to fifth graders.

Speaker 4:

I think I have in a blast and you. You probably sell out right.

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm, I think anything Disney everybody loves to come see, so I would definitely suggest, if you're listening, get your tickets now. Yeah, it's, the theater holds about 400 people, so I hope we're sold out the whole time. It's gonna be a really fun way to kick off the new year.

Speaker 4:

That's cool. No, I know your mom's not retired yet, so I don't want to speak as though she doesn't she's not a part of it. But I'm assuming, or is this? Is this a role that you're gonna continue to operate in, like you're gonna start Taking the baton and going on from here, or is this like a one-time, one-time thing for you?

Speaker 2:

It's everybody's favorite.

Speaker 5:

Oh.

Speaker 2:

That is a million dollar question. We will see. I love I'm directing, I love being here. So as long as I am able to, I would love, I would love to stay around.

Speaker 4:

So, yeah, what is the? What is the like, as you maybe have collaborated with your mom or dreamed of what could become like. What are some of the things that you are Excited about seeing develop down the road?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I have so many big ideas. It's a matter of do we have the staff to do it? We are like the little engine that could and my mom always likes to describe us as kind of like a mom and pop shop.

Speaker 4:

Right theater.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, where I think we could dream really big and have more shows happening every year and more camps and classes and things. But we really try to focus on quality over quantity. So I'm a huge fan of that yeah and right now we have our two big main stage shows a year and I think they're fantastic. So I I love it if we can keep doing what we've been doing. It's taken, you know, a while to build back up after COVID right thing, had to go online and cancel. We all know that story. Yeah, so if we can continue to do the quality that we've been doing since 1995 or whatever, I Think that would be yeah, that's great yeah. I think if we can keep Instilling in people to be good people, and love each other and support each other. I think that's really always gonna be our number one goal. I think if we start turning people over too fast, people only come through because they want one part one time and then they're gone. It's. They're not gonna really know our yeah value and our morals, I guess.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, that's great. Yeah, you know, there she is. Lori Stokes, ladies and she just came into the room, whoo.

Speaker 2:

You want to have a seat for a moment? Yeah, here, sit here.

Speaker 4:

How are you? I am well Hi. Hi I should talk to you and introduce myself. Hi, it's good to meet you.

Speaker 5:

I just took a bite of pizza, sorry.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I guess they don't need me, I'll shoot Well he kept asking about you know our origins and where we used to perform in things and some of the stuff. I'm like, mmm, I just need it. I'm just gonna take it off. I'm in the garage. I was too young.

Speaker 5:

Oh my gosh. Well, everybody thinks it was the garage. They always think I'm. What's the Apple people? Yeah, the Wozniak and Like oh.

Speaker 4:

I started in the garage. Yeah, I started in the garage.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it was actually my living room. Okay, we did have to rehearse one time in our garage, that's yeah.

Speaker 4:

Well, garages are useful for that.

Speaker 1:

They're good for that, you know.

Speaker 4:

Hi, it's good to meet you. Yeah, this is amazing. I enjoyed talking with your daughter and she was. I was asking her like what was you know behind the what, what incentivize you to start starstruck? And she was just saying you did. You did your your degree in theater, right?

Speaker 3:

I say Diego State, yep.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, what was your history? Maybe what brought you to College, like what made you want to do this yourself well, it all started with my mother.

Speaker 5:

No, honestly, my mom used to sing professionally with big bands and her mom played the piano by ear. And so we always had singing in our house growing up. There was always music and my dad would sing, and so the whole family was always involved. You know, in some kind of music.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 5:

But then for me, I it really wasn't until because they didn't have children's theater, youth theater, when I was growing up, because I'm very, very old and anyway. And so when I got into high school, that's when I was like oh, what's this musical? Because I was always in the choirs and stuff.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 5:

Anyway. So I started being in the musicals and then I was hooked and then I went that's it. I'm going to go get my degree in it. And I kept telling my dad yeah, I'm going to be a teacher, yeah, that's what I can do with my degree. But little did he know I didn't. I didn't have my teaching credentials. That wasn't going to work out anyway.

Speaker 3:

But, yeah so.

Speaker 5:

I went to San Diego State and yeah.

Speaker 4:

That's awesome, very cool, mm-hmm Did you like, when you came back from college, did you go right into doing something with theater again, or did you teach or what? What did you do after?

Speaker 5:

Actually, right after college, I did this really awesome thing. It was called singing telegrams.

Speaker 1:

Singing and tap dancing telegrams.

Speaker 5:

I lived in LA for a while.

Speaker 4:

Okay.

Speaker 5:

Anyway. But I eventually did move back up to Northern California and I had to get a regular job. So I just worked in the day and then I would do local theater in the Bay Area at night. And I did that for probably four or five years and then I met my husband and then I kind of stopped doing it for about 10 years.

Speaker 4:

Okay.

Speaker 5:

I didn't do anything. And then when I had my three kids, and then when they were like three, six and nine my youngest son was three and I thought, okay, maybe I can just start up again and go be in a show, and so that's awesome. That part? Did you tell them about working? Yeah, no, I didn't Okay, uh-oh. See, that goes back to a long time ago. That's very, very long time ago, but I did audition for a show and got in it, and then actually they needed a couple kids in the show. So then I got Courtney and her sister Kristen, who were six and nine, to be in it too, so we ended up all being into the show.

Speaker 4:

Wow, that's pretty cool. That's pretty cool Cool.

Speaker 5:

They used to have the theater up at Elone College, yeah, but at some point they tore it all down and they built a new theater, which is now the Smith Center, which is the indoor theater, jackson Theater, where we're going to do Little Mermaid.

Speaker 4:

Okay.

Speaker 5:

That holds 400 people. And then they have the outdoor amphitheater which holds about 600 people, and then they have a small little black box theater about that can hold 100. So the Jackson Theater, it was the very first show they did in 1995. Okay, I'm pretty sure, and anyway, I was in it and Kristen and.

Speaker 4:

Courtney were in it.

Speaker 5:

Wow yeah, so maybe the theater they ever did was in the theater where they only made it.

Speaker 4:

Oh, that's awesome, so kind of cool.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 4:

Did you grow up here in Fremont?

Speaker 5:

No, actually Castor Valley. Okay, okay, it was so close. Yeah, it was pretty close still. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 4:

That's awesome.

Speaker 3:

Very cool.

Speaker 4:

So when you started this with your girls, did you imagine it becoming what it is now? How did this go from just being, I mean, from the living room to doing things for people around town to like I mean, she talked to me about, she told me about when it went to being a nonprofit, an official nonprofit and changing names to starstruck and everything Right. How did that evolve for you?

Speaker 5:

Well it was. It took a few years because I did have three kids and my husband, he traveled and stuff. So I started out kind of slow and we spent after two years of just doing small little things. I decided I did want to do a musical and we I rented Broadway West, which is on the corner of five corners and it's very small theater, holds about 80 people and actually stayed there for seven years and did shows there. So every time I would do a show it would automatically sell out, because it's such a small theater, Exactly.

Speaker 4:

I was like wow, I'm doing great.

Speaker 5:

I can sell out every show. And after about seven years I got a call from one of the guys that work up at Eloni and they said that they were going to do a nutcracker from a visiting dance company and they had canceled. And if I wanted, there was a space opening and I had just finished. I was just about to finish a show I was doing at Broadway West and so I asked the parents. I was like, oh my gosh, we have a chance to go up to Eloni College. What would you guys be in for? Should we do it Whatever? And they're all like, yeah, yeah, let's do it. So we took we didn't close the show, we took it up to Eloni.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 5:

And I did only one performance because it was 400 seats. So we did one public performance and I did one school performance where we started this whole theater for the schools thing and I got all the schools that my kids went to to come see it Wow. And after that show I it was all over and I went out to the lobby and I saw a friend of mine, a parent whose kid was in the show, and I'm like I have tasted the forbidden fruit, I cannot go back. And that was it and I pretty much stayed there. I did a little bit more at Mission High School, a few shows, but that was it and that was a really big jump.

Speaker 3:

Wow.

Speaker 5:

For us, and then from then, now I've been up there, it's been 20 years. Wow and things have just gotten bigger and more and more. And we even we're a little bit small when we first started at Eloni, because our orchestras were smaller and the scenery wasn't quite as elaborate and all that and everything has just gotten more and more and more and bigger. Wow.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, that's cool.

Speaker 5:

Anyway, can you 28 years.

Speaker 4:

I know it's been a long time. Congratulations, by the way. That's. It's just amazing. I I admire so many people who live in this area in the tech world where they do something that's not tech and they really have success at doing it, and I think that's just so admirable. So congratulations on that. And I know, I know that it's probably going to be hard to pinpoint it down Can you look back at all the time that you put into this and think of like one thing that you're just like? This was like one of the biggest highlights of my experience doing this.

Speaker 5:

Now you're going to make me cry. Now Don't make me cry. Oh my gosh, there's so many, so many people ask me oh, what's your favorite show that you've ever done? And it's so hard to answer because I have so many favorites. All the shows mean something special to me.

Speaker 1:

That's right, you know, yeah, yeah, should I have asked?

Speaker 4:

who's your?

Speaker 5:

favorite child instead.

Speaker 4:

Would that have been easier? Yes, maybe all three of my kids ended up being in the shows. And yeah, Connor, my last I was going to say I thought there was only two of you until she got here, and now there's three.

Speaker 5:

The little kid who was three years old. He ended up doing more things with me at Aloni College and more people knew about him because when the girls were, by the time I got to Aloni, they only had like one or two more shows left in them and they aged out, you know. And then Connor came along and everybody knows Connor, and they were like oh, I didn't know, you had two other daughters.

Speaker 4:

That's so funny.

Speaker 5:

Honestly, oh my gosh, I can't even, I can't even think of something that you know cause there's so many awesome memories of all the shows.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I'm going to ask another question that may make you think so I know that we kind of broach the topic about she's directing her first big show, first show that you're not directly or the main director for.

Speaker 5:

So this is a big shift.

Speaker 4:

You're not retired officially, but that's probably somewhere down the road, maybe at some point in time. What's the biggest thing you're going to miss once things start shifting?

Speaker 5:

Honestly, I'm already missing it.

Speaker 4:

It's been with all the kids in the rehearsal room.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Clean up. Definitely.

Speaker 5:

There's a whole reason why I do like I've lasted because when all of my kids stopped doing theater cause they were all older and going to college and everything else, I thought I always thought okay, I'll just do it till this point. And then it was Connor was the last one and I went okay, when he's goes off to college, and then it's time. Nope, I'm still, you're still here Every time I'm like why would I want to do? That Now I have the time to do it.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I just have so much fun. When the three kids have gone on through, you realize you have hundreds of kids right, exactly. Yeah, that's cool, yeah.

Speaker 5:

That's how we all feel here. They're all our kids.

Speaker 1:

So, that's great yeah, we're super proud of all of them.

Speaker 5:

And I've had so much help too. It's not just.

Speaker 4:

It's not just all you doing, doing all the work. Yeah, it's not just me.

Speaker 5:

It's like Nancy Godfrey, our music director, has been with me for at least 20 years. Mark Aragon, our set builder, has been with me for that long. Anthony has been our stage manager for close maybe 15 years, 13, 15 years. I mean I've had a lot of people that have stayed around, even when, like Nancy and Mark, for instance, their kids did it and they left, and then they're still here too. So it kind of has a way of it's very infectious and the kids are just like give you so much energy.

Speaker 4:

Well, I think I first reached out to you guys about doing an interview with you a while ago Like I don't know, maybe a year ago and it's no problem. I just I was reaching out to a lot of the public, companies or faces in the community and I just kept seeing Starstruck pop up. But recently I've had so many people just say you need to interview Starstruck, you need to. So I can tell that it's loved in the community. I can tell that there are people here who just really feel that what you've done and who you are has become like a pillar in the community in a huge way. So I think that's a tribute to you as well for the work that you've done and that's great. Thanks, I appreciate that yeah absolutely Well, it's a pleasure to meet you.

Speaker 5:

You too. Thanks for coming out and doing this for us Absolutely.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I'm excited. Hopefully get a chance to see the Little Mermaid in January and whatever else you have down the road, I think it'll be fun to see what you have ahead.

Speaker 5:

So that's great. Thanks so much.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, thank you. This episode was hosted and produced by Ricky B, scheduling and pre-interviews by Sarah S. Rachel Prey is the print editor in charge of our newsletter. I'm Gary Williams. Andrew Kovett is the editor music provided by soundstripecom. Be sure to subscribe wherever it is that you listen so you don't miss an episode. You can find everything we make the podcast, our newsletter and all of our social media links at thefremontpodcastcom. Join us next week on the Fremont Podcast.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I actually have this very likely going to be edited out. So I have this story where I was in France and I was there helping with a camp and I was on my way back and the flight got delayed in Paris, and so I had met this girl in the airport. That was. She was crying and she was on the same flight I think it was her boyfriend's birthday or something like that and she was going to miss it because our flight was going to be delayed and all this stuff was going to happen. Anyway, it ended up like it ended up sparking this conversation with me and a bunch of other young adults, and so we all became like we just hung out there and talked for a while and then we ended up leaving like five hours later. We had a layover in Iceland, and this was before. Iceland was a cool place to go, so this was I don't know what, probably 15 years ago, and we ended up getting stuck in Iceland because the connecting flights missed, and so we ended up getting put in a hotel and we were there for an extra 24 hours and we were just all like let's rent a taxi, bus and go explore Iceland for a little while. So, anyway, fast forward. We had this whole experience together as a small group. We all became quick friends and then we all went to our separate places. Well, she lived in New York City and she was also a performer and she was a bartender in New York City and I was living in Baltimore at the time. So, anyway, we ended up I ended up going to New York and I was like I'm gonna catch up with her, you know whatever. So we ended up. I ended up going to the bar where she was serving and I was like I was like is Emily here? And they're like who are you? And I was like, well, I'm a friend we met and they're like, yeah, we'll go later. I knew her here. What's your name? I said my name is Ricky, okay, and so I'm standing there waiting there like how did you guys meet? I was like, well, we met in Paris. And then we spent, we went. I forget exactly how I said it, but I was like we met in Paris, we ended up in Iceland, we spent a day traveling around, we went to the Blue Lagoon and then, as I'm saying this, like, oh, my goodness, that's so romantic, I was like, no, I'm married, like I have. I mean, we met as friends and this was. I was like we had a flight that got canceled and well anyway it was really funny. But it was just like, oh, that's so romantic. I was like, no, no, no, that's not how it happened. It was just like all this this is a Muggins Media podcast.

The Story of Starstruck Theater Company
Career Shift and Valuing Connection Passion
Challenges of Directing a Play
Building a Successful Theater Company
Unexpected Connections on Delayed Flights