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Freshman film star makes MIT singing and acting debut

"Love levels all ranks" is one of themes of HMS Pinafore, and love of theater has leveled the ranks of those involved in the MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players' (MITG&SP) production of that operetta.

Company members range from freshman novices to seasoned professionals--including one individual who qualifies in both categories.

Known for his Hollywood movie roles in the early 1990s, freshman Charles Korsmo from Golden Valley, MN, is making both his MIT and Gilbert and Sullivan debut in HMS Pinafore, playing the romantic lead, Ralph Rackstraw. Before coming to MIT, Mr. Korsmo had a big-screen career that included roles as Jessica Lange's son Matt in Men Don't Leave, the Kid in Dick Tracy, Richard Dreyfuss' son in What About Bob with Bill Murray, William Hurt's son in The Doctor, and Robin Williams' son Jack in Hook with Dustin Hoffman.

Although Mr. Korsmo performed in high school musicals, he'd never attempted anything so operatic. "I've learned, to my chagrin, that this is hard," he said, downplaying his previous professional experience.

His fame "hasn't been much of an issue, though you can tell he's had an acting background," said Lucy Lim, a junior in earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and a MITG&SP veteran who's playing Hebe, one of Sir Joseph Porter's many sisters, cousins and aunts. "He's just like a normal, entertaining, cast member."

Classwork is also proving challenging to Mr. Korsmo, an aerospace engineering major who took college-level courses in physics, history and psychology at age 13. "MIT's pretty tough, but so far I'm passing everything," said Mr. Korsmo. It's important, he said, to go to college to "learn something you couldn't pursue on your own."

Mr. Korsmo told People Magazine in 1991, "I don't like acting enough to give up my life," and `retired' from the movies in 1992. But he still auditions occasionally for film roles. "I don't plan to leave school and make movies my career, but it's nice to have the option," he said. Acting in a film over the summer, he added, would be fun and financially rewarding.

Kevin Coleman, Pin-afore's producer, said he is one of the first professionals to produce an MIT show. Mr. Coleman is an actor/singer with 20 years of experience, having appeared in professional productions such as The Wiz and Ain't Misbehavin'. A gospel soloist, Mr. Coleman performed at President Clinton's 1992 inauguration. He has also recorded four solo gospel albums with another, "Mean Time," to be released in January.

Forced to curtail his career eight years ago to go on dialysis, Mr. Coleman moved to Massachusetts to work for the Dukakis presidential campaign. Now a church administrator at the Cambridgeport Baptist Church, Mr. Coleman has a new kidney and a new theatrical mission.

"I enjoy working with college theater groups and supporting their endeavors," Mr. Coleman said. "It's like a continuing ed program for me." Unlike professional theater, where "you have people at your beck and call," he said, student and community theater work can be much more hands-on. "I'm a very tough producer," he commented. "I pretty much demand perfection, but in this case we have to balance process and product," acknowledging that at MIT, studying always comes first.

Mr. Coleman credits "99.9 percent of the work" to his associate producers, freshmen Maria Trokoudes and June Kim, who are in turn benefitting from their training with him. Ms. Trokoudes said that in addition to the nuts and bolts of producing, Mr. Coleman had taught her "patience, strategy, cooperation and leadership."

Ms. Trokoudes, who was introduced to MITG&SP at this year's Activities Midway, was involved in high school theatrics, "but nothing even remotely of this scale," she said referring to her Pinafore responsibilities. "Most of [producing Pinafore] is exciting, but there are also lots of `why in the world aren't I home studying 8.02' moments," she said wryly.

Ms. Kim, a theater novice who likewise volunteered at the Activities Midway, is also acting as publicity and ticket manager. "Most people believe that freshmen can handle the extra load since they are on pass/fail," she said, noting that this assumption is misguided.

HMS Pinafore sets sail Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 21-23 in the Sala de Puerto Rico on the second floor of the Stratton Student Center. Curtain time is 8pm, and there is a 2pm matinee on November 23. Tickets prices range from $7-10. For information or reservations, call x3-0190 or email .

A version of this article appeared in the November 20, 1996 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 41, Number 12).

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