IStage Star: Vivian Poe
When Vivian Poe saw her first show at Imagination Stage in 2014, she knew immediately that she wanted to be a musical theatre actress. Four years later, Poe is still an avid student at Imagination Stage, and is currently stunning onstage as Debbie Wilkinson in Signature Theatre’s production of Billy Elliot the Musical.
Poe was nine years old when she relocated to Bethesda from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She had a talent for the performing arts, dancing with Ballet Concierto de San Juan since the age of four and singing with Coro de Niños de San Juan at the age of six. After moving to Maryland, Poe was excited to explore art forms that she didn’t have access to in San Juan, and decided to try acting after getting season tickets to Imagination Stage. “We went to our first Imagination Stage production in the Fall of 2014 after moving to the DC area,” Poe’s mother, Kay Tomashek, recounts, “and Vivian said, ‘mama, I want to be in plays where I can dance, sing, and act just like the ladies on stage.” Poe agrees that Imagination Stage allowed her to discover her passion for musical theatre. “Musical theatre had everything that I like to do like singing, dancing, and performing for people,” she says, “I love being on stage and getting energy from the audience. I also enjoy hearing feedback from the audience. It makes me work harder to improve my role.”
In the past four years, Poe participated in almost every class offered at Imagination Stage, from drama to filmmaking. “Vivian really shined in our Speak Out Onstage program, as well as many summer camp productions. She is currently studying in the Acting Conservatory and will perform in her graduation production this spring” says Imagination Stage Associate Director of Education Nikki Kaplan. Poe also performed in professional productions at Imagination Stage where she starred as Chip in Beauty and the Beast when she was only eleven. She’s continued to work with other theatres and performance venues in the area, including Olney Theatre where she played the title character in Annie, and Wolf Trap, where she had a solo as a beggar child in La Boheme.
Now, Poe alternates with another young actress, Olivia McMahon, in the role of Debbie Wilkinson in Billy Elliot the Musical, playing through January 6 at Signature Theatre in Arlington. “My role in Billy Elliot is challenging,” jokes Poe “because she is not a very serious dancer!” Unlike Poe, who has an extensive background in jazz, contemporary dance, hip-hop, and flamenco, the character of Debbie struggles to learn to dance. However, there is one dance style in the musical that required a little extra practice – Poe took private tap lessons to prepare for the role.
Poe hopes that her fellow Imagination Stage students will see Billy Elliot before the show closes in early January. “The music and dancing will set your heart on fire,” Poe guarantees, “and you will not be able to stop humming the music for weeks.” In Billy Elliot, Poe’s talent and passion for musical theatre are on full display, and Imagination Stage is grateful to have played a role in shaping that passion over the past four years.