Achieving dreams one song at a time
Teens spend their spare time in a variety of ways and 14-year-old Amber Mitchell is no exception. However her leisure pursuits are a bit more focused than those of a typical teen. In her spare time this past winter, Mitchell composed and wrote the book for a horror mystery musical, 'The Girl in the Mirror.'
'I didn't really have an inspiration except to produce something totally original and never before done as a musical,' she said.
Mitchell is no stranger to the stages of Portland's theater community. She made her stage debut at the tender age of six, with a performance as the littlest angel in Lakewood Center's annual production of 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.'
'She got the acting bug bad,' said her mother, Lisa Mitchell.
Since then her resume has grown to an impressive length and includes theater performances with Lakewood Theatre Company, Miracle Theatre, Northwest Children's Theater Company, Portland Opera, Circle Theatre Project, N.W. Academy, MCO Productions, Nutz-N- Boltz Theatre, Lincoln High School, and West Linn-Wilsonville School District; vocal recordings; solo vocal performances with the Portland Gay Men's Chorus, the American Cancer society and church services; films and videos. She was awarded the OTAS Rising Star Award in 2011 and nominated for OTAS Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Mary Lennox in Lakewood Theatre's production of 'The Secret Garden,' and nominated for PAMTA Outstanding Young Performer for her role as Annie in Lincoln High School's production of 'Annie' in 2009.
She produced, wrote and starred in a solo benefit concert in April 2011, which raised $8,400 for World Vision.
Mitchell has ambitions to attend theater school and one day perform on Broadway. She knows funding such dreams will take a large amount of money; hence her drive to finish and produce the musical.
'My musical has five characters. We have the main character, Therese and her mother, Sarine and Kia, the dead twin sister, ' she said. 'We also have Travis, the real biological father of Kia and Therese, and Jay, the boy next door and love interest. The musical is a horror/mystery genre, and it is about loss, hope for a better tomorrow and letting go of the past and anger and learning to forgive and move on.'
At the end of February she held a reading of 'The Girl in the Mirror,' with some of Portland's leading names reading her script.
'The wonderfully talented actors who read the roles at my reading were Sophia Keller, reading Therese; Suzannah Mars read for Sarine, Madeleine Marie read for Kia, Wade Willis read for Travis and Eric Little read for Jay.
'Obviously I have a lot to work on and edit about my script,' she said. 'One great thing about the actors who came to the reading is that they seemed to really enjoy the script, and had some fantastic ideas and improvements I'm going to include. But I think it would be great if I could share my show with more of the Portland, West Linn, Lake Oswego community and submit it to Fertile Grounds when it's ready. I'd like to see where it could go from there, too!' In addition to the singers and actors who participated in her reading, Mark LaPierre, a professional playwright also attended and provided feedback.
'My musical, in the end, had 15 songs,' Mitchell said. 'My biggest challenge, I think, with writing the musical was staying true to the characters throughout it all, even when they were going through an emotional crisis. Just because Sarine thinks she's going crazy because she sees her dead daughter everywhere doesn't mean she can suddenly start talking like a teenager. And just because Kai finds something funny doesn't mean she can suddenly become a different, friendlier person. But after awhile, when you're writing a script, you become so connected to the characters - who they are, what they want, their goals and struggles - that is becomes easier to stay true to them. I think that was one of my favorite parts about writing 'The Girl in the Mirror' - getting to know and love the characters. I was also able to learn a bit more myself as a writer. I never knew I could get so emotionally invested in a show, or a single character. I think I also learned that the more you care about a show or character, the more it will reflect in your writing, and the audience will be right up there with you. It's amazing what translates into song and dialogue - and more than a little stage blood!'
"She knows now what is involved (in creating a musical)," said her mother. "That is information she can use in the future."
Plan on hearing more from and about Mitchell and perhaps seeing "The Girl in the Mirror" at Portland's Fertile Ground exhibition of new theatrical works next fall.