Singing Under the Sea; CIU Alumna Plays Little Mermaid
By Janai Tedder
CIU Student Writer
To beat the heat over the summer, Columbia International University alumna Courtney Reasoner went under the sea, hooking the lead role of Ariel in the Disney musical “The Little Mermaid” at Columbia’s Town Theater. It was her first major role in a theatrical performance since her days as a student with The CIU Players.
“I was really nervous going into it,” said the 2016 CIU graduate, “especially because everybody knows the songs in “Little Mermaid” and automatically have high expectations.”
Some of Reasoner’s other performances include “Les Miserables” and “Into the Woods.” However, the role of Ariel is her all-time favorite, with the June production of “Little Mermaid” a success with every weekend show sold out.
“There was a period when it felt like the play wasn’t going to come together,” Reasoner said. “But when we got the set and lights put up, it turned into a really good show.”
Striving toward Excellence
Reasoner’s collegiate introduction to the stage began under CIU music professors Dr. Rod Lewis and Alison Branham who challenged her to grow in all her talents and study of music.
“When I came to CIU, I just wanted to sing,” Reasoner said. “But after studying under my professors, I realized that I needed to get a grasp of my instrument, I needed to work hard, to practice and stretch. They pushed me to become someone who always strives for excellence, even when it’s difficult.”
Entertainer and a Christian
Reasoner looks back on her time at CIU as a place where she established what it means to be an entertainer and a Christian. When deciding what theatre production to pursue, she looks for Christian truth in the script, thinks critically about the message of the show, and considers the character she may perform. She also wants her family proud to see her name among the cast.
“I feel like being a Christian and being an entertainer actually go hand in hand,” Reasoner said. “The performances I’m in typically have a message that is true to Christianity. For example, the message of friendship is consistent with the Christian worldview and a performance like ‘The Little Mermaid’ makes it relatable to everyone.
“I wouldn’t pick a show that I would be ashamed to be in,” Reasoner continued, “I think that doing music and performances is all about communication and relationship with the audience and the people you’re performing with. I want to make sure that I’m communicating truth to them. It’ll look different in every show but it’ll still be there.”
Reasoner believes it is important for Christians not to shy away from the entertainment business but rather, become more involved as a way to communicate the gospel message on a relatable level.
“I think we have so much to say and so much in our worldview that’s really important to get out there,” Reasoner said, “and it doesn’t have to be in the context of a Bible play. In order to impact people, it is vital to go into the world and be able to communicate our messages of grace and truth in a way people will see and understand.”
And that includes building relationships with the audience and the cast.
“When you’re doing a show, you’re so close to the cast,” Reasoner said. “It’s a really great opportunity to minister to them whether they’re believers or not.”
With “The Little Mermaid” Reasoner even had several opportunities to get to know the audience during “meet and greets” after the show.
“Usually for about an hour after the show, the audience would come up on stage to meet us. It was the most interaction I’ve ever had with an audience,” Reasoner said.
“What I’ve Been Made to do.”
As for the future, Reasoner continues to develop her musical abilities as she considers a future in performance or as a music teacher. She is open to either path.
“I like acting the most when it’s combined with music, so musicals have the biggest draw for me,” Reasoner said. “I really love to act, but music is my first passion.”
So either way, by pursuing music, Reasoner is confident she is fulfilling God’s call on her life and using the gifts He gave her.
“I’m not striving for excellence because I want to, I’m striving because I have to. This is what I’ve been made to do by God.”