TP Re-visits Spotlight Theatre School

Spotlight Theatre's " Voice Impact Project" visits a York Region community in 2009
Main St Newmarket
 I ran into an old friend and colleague, Merlene Samuels - Cephas, who has run Spotlight Theatre School out of Newmarket for the past "umptine" years (which equals about 26) while attending the annual local Santa Claus parade the other day. I was actually down that way to cover (P.A.C.C. News Report) Occupy Newmarket which was slated to meet at 11am at the Fairy Lake Park pavilions, or so I  had thought, but as no one was there when I'd arrived I'd wondered over to the nearby parade, having been some mention of the group possibly joining it the week prior at the first general meeting. Turned out I was 2 hours early. Ho, Ho, Haa! As the parade ended and people disbursed, I began to walk up the still closed Main St where the TP supported 'Friendly Neighbourhood Youth Road Hockey Challenge" was also held, and where the "Spotlight Singers" had kicked it off with "O Canada" this past March Break, when I suddenly heard my name.

 "Tom, how are you?"

 It was Merlene. I can't actually recall how we first met, but I do know I had both my kids in her theatrical school at one point - Hey! My son as Daddy Warbucks!? Who Knew! Ha - anyway I was a single dad and producing an improv show for tv and live shows then, as well as attending film school, so it was a jugglers life for me at that time!
'Rapper TP" surrounded by Hip Hopp sensations Krhyme Syndicate perfomers at the 2011 FNY Road hockey Challenge
 Upon graduating I approached Merlene about starting a class that focused on acting for TV & Film as well as the tech side of productions, as I pointed out that screen acting was very different than for live theatre and we'd include producing a "movie" at the end as part of the parcel, an idea which was ahead of its time with the finished version edited manually (via my fresh-out-of-film-school skills!) and shown on VHS.

Merlene and the school embraced the idea and it was a fun time for me..of course they also managed to rope me into committing to being a principal performer in Spotlight's Adult Troupe's performance ( I played Gus Schultz a big time music Producer! ha!), a musical complete with dancing which I'd never done professionally or otherwise and which gave me some apprehension but I think I pulled it off without embarrassing myself too much and the crowds seemed to love the show, so I guess we did okay. I even donned my Elvis suit some days prior, and stood on the street "thank-you very muching" and directing traffic towards tickets while pointing to a rented registration sign between croons! Ha. One time Reverend Elvis Baxter as he's known world-wide pulled up and asked me to do a 'thank-you, thank-you very much' for him, which I did, to his reply - " Yup that's pretty good" or something like that - Ha! As if I'd possibly soil poor Elvis' image by being road-side - meantime he's using impersonations to grow a congregation! Ha! Hey, more power to him, whatever works! Funny, he never mentioned God though!
 Tom appears on TV to promote TP sponsored annual youth road hockey event  A move to ban road hockey locally was squashed in part by pressure from TP in the media~!
TP does Elvis!

 Merlene and I have kept in touch, most recently with some youth community development programs I've/we've been involved with - such as Spotlight's special troupe " The Voice Impact Project" which played in communities in need for free, and she was one of the 1st to embrace inclusion of Spotlight Theatre School when a group I helped found along with Merlene and which I Chaired for 4 years, offering free spots to kids without means called Operation Sparrow which needed organizations and board members to make it a reality for kids.

Anyway charities and "nice-a-ties" aside, at the end of the day businesses have to survive, and to do that the expectation is that anything consumers purchase - whether soup from a can or schools for acting - are the (they) kids benefiting (value) and in the case of theatre schools - are the productions well done as well? I've always thought that Spotlight kids  seemed to have a special connection - like family -  with graduating students often returning to instruct, or going on to related study or careers. Even the parents there seemed supportive and complimentary no matter how big or small the part a kid played, which is a big part of the equation as far as I'm concerned and the performances speak for themselves. It's nice to know - I did first hand as I was instructing but also able to see the other classes when doing so etc - that when you leave your kids they are not only in good hands, but that they are enjoying it and learning how a team works as one.

When the group lost it's then theatre location due to rising costs some years ago and had to re-stage in another location, Merlene and her Mom, who would often help then, never wavered they just soldiered on. When they were continually passed over for grants at the time and some of us wondered quietly if it was a racial thing, they said nothing... never using that as an excuse... until finally one day Spotlight Theatre School seemed to get the accolades and respect from the town and grant agencies that they were long due.

 After mentioning to Merlene, that I remembered her now taller than her son, from when I would come in with my mom at one time creating sets for stage productions while he was in diapers, we happened upon talking of websites and electronic / SOCIAL media and the like, and I offered that lately we'd had some great focus in those areas and were doing very well..I made no promises but agreed to have a look at what they have and see if TPE Productions could assist over and above creating an online video for them from footage TPE has previously recorded..our Internet Marketing Whiz and SEO guy Fred Joly - Canada's best in my opinion - who is a "white- hat" website optimiser - had a quick look-see and has some suggestions - such as joining Google + as a business and adding video content to assist adding to optimizing, as well as some simple overhaul adjustments he recommends - all totaled should result in increased targeted website-visits and better results once they arrive...those things are Fred's department mostly - including the logical set-up make-up of pages. The creative and outside the box twists if needed of projects usually fall to me to help shape which I will certainly share with you all as we take them on! I'll keep you posted ..... Either way TP is going to produce a showcase video for Spotlight..because one should never forget where one comes from!