By Angela Peavey
Mason Street Warehouse “alumnus” and The Lion King actor Russell Joel Brown visited Saugatuck Middle School and recently met with 6th grade students to present his outreach program, Project: Inspire. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts worked with Brown to bring this very special creative educational opportunity to students.
“As I travel around North America with the The Lion King, I present my own outreach program, Project: Inspire to elementary, middle, and high school students,” Brown said. “While I present to schools, it is imperative to me that I reach at least one economically disadvantaged school or program per city I visit.” Brown was in Detroit with The Lion King and reached out to the SCA for assistance connecting with schools.
“We love playing the role of ‘connecter’,” said SCA Executive Director Kristin Armstrong. “Russell is so talented – it’s very exciting when a performer of his caliber visits West Michigan to connect with students. We were thrilled to be able to help him work with several regional schools.”
Brown, who is an actor-dancer-singer, played the role of Horse in MSW’s 2009 production of The Full Monty and after, went straight to Broadway where he has been performing as a bass in the singing ensemble, and serving as an understudy to the actor who plays “Mufasa” in The Lion King for the past 12 years.
Brown uses the power of creativity, during Project: Inspire, to activate the imagination, inspiring students to achieve excellence in their personal, educational, and artistic lives. Drawing from his experiences in The Lion King as well as other productions, Brown talks about what it takes to be a working performer and to be successful on stage, screen, and in life.
“While this is a unique opportunity for the children in our community who have a passion and interest in theatre, Russel’s program connects with any young person interested in making a difference in his or her community,” said SCA Education & Exhibitions Manager Whitney Valentine. “It’s very exciting to share Russell’s passion for helping young people find their unique voice with our community.”
During his trip to West Michigan, Brown also visited Whitehall Middle School which is currently working on their own production of The Lion King. Brown connected with more than 100 6th-12th grade students in Whitehall.
The Lion King is running through Feb. 26 at the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. For more information on the show, visit michiganopera.org.