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Campbell a rising star

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Plans to pursue professional acting career

By Nick Schrager

 The sky’s the limit for a Springfield woman who achieved notable success early in her performing arts career. Charlotte Campbell, the leading actress in this summer’s The Stephen Foster Story, started acting and singing at a tender age. “My mom says I would sing songs before I could form coherent words,” she said. “My grandmother tells me that, when I was little, I would lay on the floor and make up very dramatic operas about dying in the western sun. I would put on performances on the fireplace hearth in the house and dance for my mom and my brother and my dad. I made terrible faces when I danced.” A schoolteacher provided Campbell the building blocks for success. “When I was in elementary and middle school, we had a wonderful music teacher named Mrs. Hughes,” said Campbell. “There are so many things that I take for granted that I know them – they’re just in my brain. Recently, I was thinking about it and I said, ‘no, I know that because of Mrs. Hughes. She put that in my mind.’ She’s actually the person I first learned about Stephen Foster from. She had this big giant book. We’d sit on out little carpets in music class in elementary school. She had a book about Stephen Foster’s life and the end of his life. The last line in the show is ‘Dear friends and gentle hearts’ which - I learned from her - was found on a scrap of paper in his wallet when he died. It was the beginning of a new song, or that’s what they think. “When I was in fourth grade with Mrs. Hughes, we did a Christmas program and I played a school marm,” she said. “I still remember some of my lines, which is ridiculous. I think the show was called ‘Christmas at the OK Corral.’ The guy I had a crush on - I had to tell him I liked him in the play and it was the most embarrassing thing. The next one I was in was ‘The Christmas Carol’ in eighth grade. I was a bunch of old women. I played several old women.” The actress would like to see art education expanded in Washington County schools – especially at the high school. “In elementary school and middle school, they do a very good job – Mrs. Hughes with the music - that’s wonderful,” she said. “ When I was in elementary school, we had an art teacher named Mr. Connelly and he was great. But I don’t believe they have an art program in elementary school anymore. I think Washington County could use more art in its schools. “In spite of the fact that Washington County High School doesn’t have that many art programs, the teachers and faculty and principal – they are all very supportive. They send a photographer to all of our shows at the Opera House that Washington County High schoolers are in. Faculty members, the principal, teachers – they would all be in the audience at these shows. They are so supportive.” Other friends helped Campbell get into acting. “Obviously, Jan Fattizzi, who came to Kentucky and started the Children’s Theater, that I was a part of from eighth grade until I graduated,” she said. “I even went back into the show there my first semester of college because I loved it so much. Her and her husband - the Fattizzis coming to Kentucky and bringing the theater to Springfield - has impacted the lives of so many kids. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to me. “I saw “Phantom of the Opera” when I was in seventh grade and I fell hard. Luckily, that was the spring the Fattizzis moved to Kentucky and started the theater. I didn’t start right away, but I went and saw one of my best friends, Rose, in the first show they did. The next fall, I signed up and I started theater there. My first community theater performance was “Nunsense,” and I played a nun who wants to be a ballerina.” Campbell recalls her first performance at the Opera House in Springfield. “I remember being very nervous,” she said. “I remember we drank a lot of tea backstage. It’s a certain kind of tea and, every time I drink it now, I remember the feeling of being nervous for that show. Also, I had to dance. I had to do a dance solo in that show and dance is not my forté.” Cast mates in Springfield became friends. “Actually, one of the women who was in that show with me works with me here at Stephen Foster, as well – Angela Nance. She was absolutely wonderful. Everyone in that cast was wonderful. Miss Jan was in it and my friend, Catherine Baugh, who graduated the year after me, and went to theater with me. She is so talented and so funny, especially in that show. Margaret Chelf was the other cast member in that show and it was a good time, and a good show, I think.” The young actress stressed the value of the community theater. “It’s something our community can really take pride in,” she said. “When people in the community get involved, it makes it so much better. When you have a doctor running the lights for a show and you have the dentist coming to all the shows and being the president of the board of directors, and everyone being involved – it’s a beautiful thing for the community to do together.” Campbell enjoys her first paying job. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “Like everyone says - and it sounds so cliché – but it truly is like a family. I was here last year for my first season and coming back was just so nice because you see all these familiar faces and there are also new faces. Everyone you work with – like Johnny [Warren], the director and artistic director is wonderful to work with. He works with us – he doesn’t just tell us what to do. He asks us what we feel about it and gives us a new perspective. He’s wonderful to work with. “The actors, especially my leading man, the lead in the show, Bronson Norris Murphy, who plays Stephen Foster, is absolutely wonderful – so talented. It’s just really fun. Everyone is so fun. It’s a very good working environment. It’s the first job I’ve ever had, my first-ever paying job, which is a really pretty cool first job, I have to say.” The Springfield native, who bears a resemblance to a young Olivia DeHavilland, is a big fan of classic movies. “I’m a really big fan of Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlet in ‘Gone With The Wind,’” she said. “That’s her most memorable role, but she was so incredible to watch. You can’t take your eyes off her because she goes through such a range. You can tell what she’s thinking just by looking at her. Of course, I love Audrey Hepburn. She’s got that something – that ‘it’ quality. A lot of the women that Alfred Hitchcock puts in his movies – they’re always charismatic and they’re always charming.” Campbell will be a junior this year at the University of Louisville, majoring in communications. She discussed her plans for after graduation. “There’s a lot of things I want to do,” she said. “Definitely, for the next few years, I’d like to pursue theater on a professional level, in regional theaters across the country. I’d like to see more of the United States. Maybe work at a theme park or something – well, if I worked at a theme park, I’d want to work at DisneyWorld.” Big city lights could be on the horizon for Campbell. “I’ve been thinking about maybe moving to New York, just for awhile,” she said. “I’m pretty realistic. I know it’s such a big city and there are so many people who want the exact same thing that I want, but I think it’s worth a try. I think it’s a good time in my life to do it, and something I think I would regret if I didn’t do. I know a lot of people who live there now, so I’d have kind of a support group up there. So, I may move there for just awhile, or try to get jobs in different places around the country.” The Stephen Foster Story runs through August 10. Campbell is currently in rehearsal for the venue’s second show of the summer. “We’re doing Shrek, The Musical, which is going to be very fun,” she said. “We started music rehearsals yesterday. That opens July 6 and I’m really excited for that. It’s so fun.” For information on dates and show times, call 502-348-5971 or see stephenfoster.com.