Young Mt. Laurel resident expands her acting horizons

Courtney Chu has been performing in the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of “South Pacific” and also recently made final callbacks for a Broadway show

Courtney Chu

For 11-year-old Mt. Laurel resident Courtney Chu, acting is the same as playing a giant game of pretend.

“You just tell a story,” Courtney said when asked about being on stage.

And although she’s only 11, Courtney has had plenty of experience doing just that.

She’s gone from roles in shows at her elementary school, to work with the Moorestown Theater Company to some of her most recent work in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “South Pacific,” which has been at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia for the past month.

Courtney has been playing the role Ngana, one of two half-Polynesian children of a Frenchman who live together on an island in the South Pacific during World War II. When a U.S. Navy nurse arrives on the island and falls in love with the Frenchman, the nurse must learn to shed her prejudice and accept the family as they are if they ever hope to be together.

While Courtney praises the show and lessons it teaches, she has even more great things to say about her the experience behind the scenes.

Courtney describes her acting at Walnut Street Theatre as her favorite she’s done so far. With the larger venue and getting to work with so many professionals, she said she’s really enjoyed being in a show that’s lasted for multiple weeks.

“Everything just goes so much faster,” Courtney said when comparing the work to previous productions at other venues.

The word “faster” can also describe a lot of Courtney’s life these days.

She was recently signed by the Abrams Artists talent agency in New York City for the theater, film, television, commercials, modeling and voice-over work, ­­ — and so now auditions have become a bigger part of her life than ever before.

In addition to her countless other auditions over the past few months, most recently she’s made it to final callbacks in her auditions for the Broadway tour of “Matilda” and the off-Broadway show “Everybody.”

With going to New York about three times per week, she’s also gotten lots of practice doing homework on train rides and getting school notes from friends.

On average, Courtney spends about three hours a day devoted to her hobby, and even longer on the weekends, but she said with a good work ethic and the right time management, she’s been handling the changes well.

“It’s kind of stressful, but mostly it’s just fun because I really love acting,” Courtney said.

Courtney said she has interests outside of performing on stage, but hopes to make acting her full-time profession someday.

“I just like being in front of all the people and showing them what I can do,” Courtney said.

Yet for now, Courtney’s mom Brandi Chu said she’s just trying to help Courtney adjust to growing up while pursuing her dreams.

“She’s enjoying it, but it’s all new so we’re still learning as we go and just finding the right balance so she can still act like an 11-year-old kid doing kids things,” Chu said.

For more information about “South Pacific” at the Walnut Street Theatre, visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org.