Local Arts

The Mitchell Influence: ‘I think of the theater as being a laboratory’

‘I think of the theater as being a laboratory’

Longtime theater teacher Corey Mitchell takes time out from rehearsal at Theatre Charlotte's "Ain't Misbehavin'" -- which he is directing -- to talk about his work at Northwest School of the Arts.
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Longtime theater teacher Corey Mitchell takes time out from rehearsal at Theatre Charlotte's "Ain't Misbehavin'" -- which he is directing -- to talk about his work at Northwest School of the Arts.

This is part of an Observer series about people who have had significant and sustained influence on Charlotte’s arts world.

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Eva Noblezada, also a former Mitchell student, was a 2017 Tony nominee for the lead in “Miss Saigon.” (She too was a Blumey winner from Northwest, in 2013.) AP/Matt Dunham

Teacher, mentor, cheerleader

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Both the 2014 Blumey winners for lead acting were students of Mitchell’s: Mekhai Lee (left) went on to the 2018 national tour of “The Color Purple,” while Abby Corrigan was in 2018’s live-TV “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and had a main role in the national tour of “Fun Home,” among other work. (Northwest took nine of 12 main Blumey awards that year.) Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Mitchell with Broadway legend Carol Channing, in 2006. He had requested, via her website, that she come to Charlotte – but was surprised when her husband/manager called a week later to talk about education and legacy, the Observer reported at the time. She ended up doing two shows benefitting the school and teaching a master class there. Fellow CMS teacher Dennis Delamar took this photo, and told Mitchell, “”I recall how much she adored you, Corey, and the connection you made with her to make the Charlotte NWSA event happen.” Dennis Delamar

Beyond the classroom

‘Purple Dreams’

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Phillip Johnson-Richardson (left) with another Charlotte actor in the Chicago cast, Colby Lewis. The two are @itphilsgud and @kingcolbythe1st on Instagram. Courtesy of Phillip Johnson-Richardson via @itphilsgud on Instagram

Cultivating ... compassion

Each show has something to teach his students. “There’s never going to be a state test for theater,” he said. “I don’t teach theater because I want to give a test on Act III, Scene IV of ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ I teach because I want students to see the collectiveness of our humanness.”


His theater students become more empathetic humans because they have to “connect with the characters they play,” he said. “It might be a fictional person from 300 years ago or someone their age who lived just three years ago -- but in New York City.”



So Corey Mitchell did end up planting seeds.



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