Imagine, if you will, a bubbly, red-haired Disney heroine-type who looks like wide-eyed Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and speaks with the guile-less optimism of Amy Adams' Giselle in Enchanted.
Meet Corinna Rezzelle, 25, who earned a BFA in theater from SCAD, and a teaching certificate from AASU, and has now opened a children's theater and school called the Jewel Conservatory.
The Augusta native came here to learn how to train horses, and wound up acting, and doing hair and makeup, in Little Theatre and Savannah Actor's Theatre productions. Among them: Dangerous Liaisons, Pippin and Urinetown the Musical. She also sang opera with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus.
After her SCAD graduation, Rezzelle spent a year with the Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Atlanta. She was, primarily, the professional company's wig stylist.
"Their education director thought I was a Disney princess," Rezzelle explains, laughing at the memory. "She said 'You'd be awesome with children .... Here, teach this class.' And that's how I started teaching."
To her utter shock and delight, she loved it. "Kids see things differently than grown-ups do," says Rezzelle. "And after being a jaded person who went to art school, it was nice to see how refreshing it is to see when a kid looks at a play and says 'Oh my goodness, I can do this!' And when they do their first play, it's magic." She then taught at Georgia's Pace Academy Summer Camp before coming back to Savannah.
Even the most starry-eyed Disney screenwriter couldn't make up what happened next. "It was," Rezzelle says, "the most bizarre Kismet thing. I was applying to grad schools, and I got accepted at NYU. That was the plan, I was going to be moving to New York this summer. And my funding fell through. I can't afford New York!
"So then I applied to the education program at Armstrong, and I took classes all spring and summer. And that's why I'm here." New York, she says, can and will wait.
Located in a converted storefront in Rincon, the Jewel Conservatory offers "process-based" theater classes, covering multiple aspects of the theatrical experience, for children ages 4 to 17. Each session — taught by Rezzelle herself — is 10 weeks long.
Many of her students, she says, are homeschooled; some come from the YMCA, where she taught — with great success — before opening her school. 'Mainly, my big pull right now is from elementary schools,' Rezzelle notes, "because they don't have music and drama programs."
This week, Jan. 6 and 7, she's holding open auditions for an adult theater company — "theater by adults for children" — for an adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs destined for area school performances. Actors are asked to prepare a short (1 minute or less) comedic monologue, and be prepared to cold read from the script
Shows will be held March 6-22, Thursday-Saturdays, some days with multiple performances. And it's a paid gig, folks.
For appointments, call (912) 257-0671, or check out jewelconservatory.com.
Back home in Augusta, Corinna Rezzelle's entire family was involved in theater. "I hated it growing up, because I didn't want to become like my parents," she says. "Of course."
However, if there's a lesson to be learned from dozens of Disney movies, "You can't get away from who you are," Rezzelle says. "So I have to do theater. It's what I do."