I can vividly remember my first speaking role in the theater. Well, theater is a bit much—it was my third grade class play. I was Cowslip, a 13-year-old slave girl, in a play adapted from the children’s book of the same name by Betsy Haynes. In an astonishing twist of color-blind casting, my teacher let me have this part full of anguish and soliloquy. I can still remember my sweaty hands, the nights spent memorizing lines at home (with my trusty pink highlighter), and the weekends spent sewing my costume with Mom.
The moment I first heard applause, I was hooked. Something about the entire process of characterization, blocking, rehearsing, and, of course, audience response was deeply addictive. And so began my life shuffling from audition to audition, constantly seeking the unequaled thrill of the stage.
In East Nashville, actress-entrepreneur Cori Anne Laemmel is nurturing this same electric and supportive world for kids through her program The Theater Bug. Laemmel grew up auditioning and performing just like me. She found herself a few years ago post-college in a non-theatrical job longing for that sense of community and support you find with other theater kids and families. She transitioned back to acting, landing roles with the Rep and NCT but still missing the ping of working directly with students. Enter stage left: The Bug.