Community Events at Miller: Jana Zollinger, Director of Development

Miller Outreach with STOMP and Girl Scouts Photo

This season I’ve had the pleasure of participating in two unique and priceless experiences! Miller Auditorium provided the opportunity for 100 Girl Scouts from the Heart of Michigan troops to enjoy meet and greets with the cast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the cast of STOMP. These meet and greets allowed the Girl Scouts to get up close with the performers and ask questions ranging from “How in the world did you do that?” to ”How can I become a performer?”

For the Disney’s Beauty and the Beast meet and greet, the girls gathered in their Belle costumes to meet the actors who portrayed Belle, Gaston, Lumiere (the candlestick), Cogsworth (the clock), Mrs. Potts (the teapot) and Chip (the teacup and Mrs. Potts’ son).  Because the performers were out of costume, the Beast couldn’t join us, as his costume and make-up take the longest time to prepare.  The girls asked questions such as: How long have you been an actor? How long does it take for you get into costume? How often do you rehearse? How long have you been traveling with the tour?  One scout asked “What did you do before joining the Beauty and the Beast cast?” and I found it interesting to learn that Gaston was an accountant prior to being an actor. Talk about a career switch! It was also fascinating to learn that there are two boys who perform Chip’s role. They rotate performances due to the late hours required and to allow time for the young actors to continue their schooling.  Probably due to the similarity in their ages, the girls seemed most interested to learn about Chip, although of course they were also enamored with Belle. Who wouldn’t be! In fact, when the cast members were leaving to head backstage to get into costume, Belle was the cast member who found it hardest to break away from the crowd.

STOMP was a completely different experience! The 100 girls all gathered around a wooden floor on the Grand Tier level of Miller and waited for the cast members to join them after a performance. What they didn’t know was that soon the wooden floor would transform into a dance floor and they would be the dancers! Yes, you guessed it, STOMP taught the scouts one of their routines that had been performed on stage that night. The cast members broke the routine into four parts and practiced each section separately until the girls were comfortable with it. Then, at the end, they put the four parts together for the full routine. The girls walked away thrilled, not only having learned what it takes to be a cast member on the STOMP tour, but having danced a full routine on a stage!

Miller has been doing these types of meet and greets for years, but this is the first time that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of the gang.  I’ve been told that the Girl Scouts have had old fashioned slumber parties in the auditorium. WOW, how awesome that Miller opens their doors to help create these once in a lifetime memories.

Miller is proud to offer community outreach opportunities to various groups, along with sharing the joy of live performing arts at little or no cost to over 500 children of low-income and military families—and that’s for just the 2014-15 season!  The theatre experience continues long after the end of the performance and can inspire a lifelong passion for the arts.  Miller hopes to deepen its commitment to providing an immersive educational experience for Kalamazoo area children through world class performances and active participation.