Owensboro resident Erin Morris may have not ventured into community theatre until later in life, but she’s shown it’s never too late to try something new.

Adopted from Seoul, South Korea at four months old, Morris, now 32, was more keen on athletics rather than the performing arts.

Though Owensboro resident Erin Morris may not have not ventured into the community theatre world until her late 20s and early 30s, she’s proven it’s never too late to try something new.

Adopted from Seoul, South Korea at four months old, Morris, now 32, was more keen on athletics rather than the performing arts.

“I started off as a gymnast,” she said. “I did gymnastics from age 5 to 13 — so it was quite a long time. And then, I wanted to branch out and play sports and other things and that’s when I started getting into cheerleading.”

While Morris had experience in the choir throughout her time in Newton Parrish Elementary School, she found other areas of interest early on such as playing the flute from the fifth grade until she graduated Owensboro High School, making All-District Band her senior year.

She also was part of the colorguard squad while in the marching band.

While Morris said that she’s always been around music and the arts in some fashion, it wasn’t until she saw the Nick Cannon-led 2002 film “Drumline” that she became fascinated with a different area of performing and realized that cheerleading wasn’t the best fit.

“It was about dancing and not so much cheerleading and that’s kind of when I made the switch,” she said. “I think it’s more expressive. …I really liked competitive cheerleading but I was not a fan of ballgame because I loved sports; I’d rather watch the game than cheer for it whereas dance — I had more freedom and more expression.”

Eventually, Morris joined the OHS dance team to expand on her talents but still did not take a chance to take center stage in the theatre world until her senior year, even though she was working behind-the-scenes such as set design.

But she showed her support to those who were a part of that community as a spectator.

“I would go to as many shows as possible,” she said. “I would go to every show that OHS produced all four years and all the ones at the middle school, too.”

Morris continued to follow her trajectory in dance during her time at Murray State University when she joined the student dance company and became heavily involved with choreography.

The artform became more than something that Morris grew fond of.

“I was in an emotionally abusive relationship in college, so dance was really my therapy,” Morris said. “Any type of expression for that was super alleviating and freeing in a way.

“It’s very healing for me. It’s my main form of self expression.”

Though she majored in mathematics and secondary education, Morris still offered her talents to the students in the Encore! Show Choir while balancing her then-teaching role at OHS and being a math tutor with the 21st Century Program.

Not long after, Morris choreographed her first show in the community — the Theatre Workshop of Owensboro’s production of Lynn Ahrens’ “Seussical” in 2016.

Morris focuses more on the narrative of what the production is about as opposed to the particular dance styles.

“I prefer jazz but I do a lot of contemporary and lyrical kind of stuff — usually what goes with the music,” she said. “I really love the storytelling of it and so it’s kind of whatever my body feels like doing to express that. …Dance is all about the inbetween You can tell someone ‘move here’ and ‘move there,’ but what you do from one move to the next — that’s where the storytelling happens, that’s where the musicality happens and that’s what I feel like I try and teach.

“With choreography, it’s so different with dance versus cheer because it’s very rudimentary in cheer; but in dance, you can really dive into those emotions.”

After years of getting casts ready for showtime, Morris finally took the chance and performed in her first community theatre production of Encore’s “Damn Yankees” last October as dance captain and ensemble member.

“I’ve been on the stage before for dance but not necessarily for theatre,” she said. “I did ‘High School Musical’ when I was in high school, but it's different because at school you audition and there’s usually a part for you somewhere, whereas in the community — sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t.”

And her move to the spotlight has seemed to be a positive experience thus far.

“I wanted to do all of that and I wanted to try it myself and it’s been amazing,” she said.

She attributes “amazing artists” around her such as theatre professional and pianist Jordan-Blake Key, music director Jennifer Wiggins and Carolyn Greer, OHS theatre director and director of the school's The Rose Curtain Players that have kept her involved.

“Even though I wasn’t on stage, I was still on creative teams,” Morris said. “I am a sponge — I like to soak up everything I see even if it’s not meant for me. …I would use it to help teach because a lot of the acting cues you can use heavily in dance; and so thinking about what it takes to embody a character, you can display that in dance. That’s something I feel like I’ve learned and I’ve shaped for my craft.”

Morris is keeping up her performance chops when she decided to enroll herself in vocal lessons last year and she is currently in tech week for Encore’s production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," which will begin showing July 16 in Cannon Hall at the RiverPark Center.

“The singing is a whole new level of breath support,” Morris laughed. “Trying to sing and do a really fast paced dance number is challenging to me but I love it.”

Morris also likes to keep her education roots intact by teaching the youth in the community through opportunities like RiverPark Center’s summer camps and its Theatre Arts Academy and enjoys seeing how far the students come in a short amount of time.

“For the junior camp, it’s one week,” Morris said. “So in five days, to see them not know how to stretch and warm-up to putting on a performance — that is such a big accomplishment for them and I really just love that growth over the week.”

Additionally, Morris uses her platform in the arts community as a way to bring more awareness to diversity — something that was important to her and her family during her upbringing.

“My mom really wanted (my brother and I) to have things that we can learn about culture,” she said. “...They didn’t have Asian baby dolls so she would get black-haired baby dolls or brown hair that somewhat looked like me.”

With the release of movies such as Disney’s “Mulan” and “Pocahontas,” Morris was finally able to witness characters that were similar to her in terms of being of different backgrounds and ethnicities that weren’t seen much on screen.

She also found inspiration through people she looked up to in the sports world such as Olympic gold medalist figure skater Michelle Kwan followed by actress Lucy Liu.

Morris said that inclusion locally has come a long way since growing up in Owensboro.

“Just looking at the population in general, especially at Owensboro High School, it’s so different than when I was there because I was one of the five Asian people,” she said. “...Just going to schools now and going into the programs like the (RiverPark Center’s art camps) … and seeing all of the kiddos of color — it is so nice. You can just tell a huge difference from where we started and where we’re at now.”

She wants to continue to promote its importance, especially to the younger generation.

“In the arts especially, there’s not a lot of diversity … and I try my best to inform everyone I know of what’s coming up, what they can audition for, what they can send their kids in for,” Morris said. “Anyone and everyone — it really is a community.”

And the overall education component in all facets is what keeps Morris motivated to continue.

“I’m a lifelong learner. I love to learn,” Morris laughed. “I hear all these talented musicians and I see all these talented dancers and I’m like, ‘I really want to learn from the best’ and I want to be able to teach that way too.”

(1) comment

Denver Block

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