Ally Copeland, a sophomore at Grayson High School, started acting in Couch Middle School’s theater program in the sixth grade. Working to hone her craft, Ally has grown as an actor and as a person, and there’s no other life she can imagine for herself besides the lights, the action and all the pizazz that comes with musical theater.
“Just all of it. Just all of it coming together after all the hard work, the payoff is just amazing,” said Ally whose dream is to study theater in college and lead a career that allows her to make a living doing what she loves most, performing.
When Ally was in elementary school, her mom, Cheryl Copeland, taught at Couch Middle School and would often volunteer with musicals and talent shows. Ally would come sit and watch the rehearsals, wondering all the while what it would be like to be on stage herself. “It was something I was always interested in doing,” said Ally, admitting it took a measure of courage and the help of a supportive friend to finally go for it. “I had no idea where this path was going to lead me.”
In the seventh grade Ally began taking classes, both for dance and musical theater, at A Step Ahead Performing Arts Studio in Loganville, Ga. With encouragement and support from the director, Bernice Drothler, Ally began to fall in love with every aspect of performing on stage. After appearing in roughly three musicals a year at A Step Ahead, Ally’s skill set and confidence level have escalated more than she could have imagined. She believes all of this training, and playing characters such as Pumbaa, Scuttle and Ursula, contributed to her landing a lead role as Bridget in Bring it On during her freshman year at Grayson High School.
It gave Cheryl great comfort to see her daughter’s passion blossom and how it has affected her confidence levels. “Watching her struggle internally in the early years was difficult, but seeing the transition in her, both on and off stage, over the last two years has made our hearts so happy,” Cheryl said.
“People involved in theater tend to appreciate the differences of each individual because they often must put themselves into a vulnerable state to emote their characters. I was finally being accepted for me, being me,” Ally said. This made the switch to high school less daunting because she knew the program would give her a place to be accepted and understood.
“Theater friends feel like a family. When we are working for months to prepare for a show we must all come together for countless hours of rehearsal to pull off an amazing show,” said Ally. “Before you know it, they begin to feel like family.”
Even after all the roles, she’s played, auditions are still nerve-wracking for Ally. “There’s always going to be the fear that I’m not good enough, that I’m not what they’re looking for, but I have learned to just go in with the confidence of, ‘This is an audition practice. This is for me. This is for my own personal growth,’ and not let that get to me,” Ally said.
A motto she reminds herself of states: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” And her mom upholds that teaching whole-heartedly. “Ally has learned to understand that whatever role she’s cast as, is the role she’s meant to have – not only will it challenge and stretch her skills as an actor, but she also knows the director has a vision,” said Cheryl.
Her ultimate dream is to perform on Broadway, although Ally is open to other possibilities.
“As long as I can make a living through theater – I want to love what I do, and this is performing and possibly coaching others who want to sing, dance or act,” Ally said.
For now, Ally is in full-on training mode. She continues to train as a “triple threat” by taking voice lessons, dance instruction and musical theater classes at A Step Ahead. When Broadway shows come into town, she attends their Master Classes, which have even included stage combat training.
A Step Ahead Theater has also been a bonding experience for both mother and daughter. Cheryl enjoys volunteering behind the stage with sets and costumes and chooses to simply be a cheerleader along the way.
Ally considers theater a great experience for everyone, regardless of their talent or career path they might want to take. “They’re so many sides of theater and learning to have a stage presence can translate into other areas with presentations. We learn to take authority, fill a room, and command the audience’s attention, but if acting isn’t your thing, there’s also the technical side with stagecraft and lighting.”