Performing arts is more than just entertainment. For Olympia High School freshman Alexi Mulvihill and University of Central Florida (UCF) senior Cristina Neely, both Daniel Mills Apprentices, the theater has given them a new perspective on bringing characters to life, building confidence, and trusting their intuition.
Mulvihill, who is 15 and on the performance track, played #7 in the off-Broadway Pulitzer finalist “The Wolves” at Theater South Playhouse. The play focuses on a suburban high school girls’ soccer team and the interpersonal dynamics they must navigate.
“It was maybe a little more mature a subject than we usually do, but I felt so bonded with the character, and I think that gave me more confidence in my acting abilities,” Mulvihill says.
Mulvihill wants to work toward a future career in acting, possibly even on Broadway. With help from the apprenticeship, she feels she is getting the extra support and networking to start her in the right direction. Her next project is acting in “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” a parody of the Harry Potter book series at Theater South Playhouse.
“Nick Bublitz, [Director of Puffs at Theater South Playhouse], is awesome. He’s so open and helpful. He is teaching me that it’s OK to be a little scared. I can put that into my work,” Mulvihill says.
She adds that she is also lucky to have the support of her mom and dad through this journey.
Neely began her theater journey as a dancer in seventh grade. Now she is on the director track in the apprenticeship. Growing up in Boca Raton and moving to Central Florida three years ago to attend college, Neely is finishing her bachelor’s degree in theatre studies with a minor in marketing and Medieval renaissance studies at UCF. Her two current projects are “We Begin in a Tavern,” a play with a Dungeons and Dragons fantasy factor, and “Manner of Death, an audience-participation murder mystery comedy with an LBGTQ focus.
The two theatrical productions will take the stage at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival from May 16-May 29. They are also new, original productions which Neely says are her favorite plays to direct.
“New productions are the best because you are not stuck to the words on the page. Working with the playwrights, you can strengthen the words and allow the actors to affect the final play. For a director, there is nothing better,” she says.
In August, after she graduates, Neely will journey to the birthplace of Fringe, Edinburgh Scotland, to attend the world’s largest open-access performing arts festival. Afterward, she hopes to start finding her way to more work and start her career in New York, San Diego, or London.
Through the apprenticeship and Project Spotlight at UCF, she has learned not to sell herself short because of her age. Neely candidly explains that she suffered from impostor syndrome but has since come to understand that she has the power to speak up and express herself.
“It’s OK to feel vulnerable. The actors sometimes feel vulnerable too. Together we can put that energy to work in the performance, which I now know can only enhance it,” Neely says.
For Neely, the core of theater and performance is the idea of found family and a sense of belonging. It is a tool for healing, reflection, and joy for the audience, cast, and crew. Therefore, she feels theater arts is a beacon to the larger community and something she cannot wait to dedicate her life to.