Young Mt. Laurel actor continues to grow as a person and a performer

Courtney Chu, 12, is currently performing in the Walnut Street Theatre’s ongoing production of “Annie” through early January.

Mt. Laurel resident Courtney Chu, second from the left, on stage during Walnut Street Theatre’s ongoing production of ‘Annie.’

At 12 years old, actor and Mt. Laurel resident Courtney Chu doesn’t recognize the performer or even the person she was just one year ago.

The young actor spoke with The Sun last fall when she was in Walnut Street Theatre’s production of “South Pacific,” and she recently she spoke with The Sun again about her role as the orphan July in Walnut Street’s ongoing production of “Annie.”

Yet for Courtney, the similarities between last year and now stop there.

As Courtney continues to grow, so does her resume and list of accomplishments. In addition to her role in “Annie,” this past year Courtney landed a recurring, on-camera role in the PBS Television series “Cyber Chase for Real,” in addition to some work in commercials, podcasts, voice acting and vocal recordings.

However, with new opportunities also come new challenges, and in the world of performing, more often than not it means facing a seemingly constant stream of auditions and rejection.

When Courtney isn’t in a show such as “Annie,” where she has to dedicate upward of 30 hours a week to performing, she finds herself auditioning. For Courtney, it’s in that auditioning process where she sees the most growth in herself between now and one year ago.

“If I went back to last year, I don’t think I’d recognize myself,” Courtney said. “I’ve grown as an actor, and I’ve grown as a person. Acting is a lot of rejection, and I think compared to last year I can handle a lot more of it.”

In a world where Courtney can very often go into an audition and hear within the first 10 seconds that she’s no longer needed, she’s achieved a level of comfort with the procedure.

Where constant auditions and rejections could once be stressful and hurtful, just this one additional year’s worth of training and experience has left her unfazed by the process.

“I believe it was another mom I met at an audition who said the joy and best part of acting should be the auditioning,” Courtney said. “You should love it, and if you get called back, that’s the cherry on top. If you don’t, that’s OK, because you got to have a great time and you got to see some great people.”

Mt. Laurel resident Courtney Chu in a sound booth recording for a Disney commercial.

Courtney’s mom Brandi agrees, having seen the growth in her daughter this past year.

For those who might have an interest in the business of performing, Chu described how kids can repeatedly get so close to landing a role without actually landing the part.

“People have to really understand for maybe every 60 or 70 auditions, kids can maybe book one part,” Chu said. “You need thick skin, and you can’t beat yourself up over it. That’s one of the things Courtney really has grown from.”

Yet for the parts Courtney does land, she gives everything she can to her roles and her audience.

“As an actor, nothing you do is for yourself,” Courtney said. “With acting, you love it, but other people are there and you’re sending so many powerful messages.”

Turning her focus to her current work, Courtney praised her time performing in a show the size of “Annie” on a stage as big as Walnut Street Theatre, where she described performances as a “treat” and said she enjoys working with professional actors who treat her as a professional as well.

“We’re all kind of pieces to a puzzle, I’d say,” Courtney said. “If you’re one piece, you have to know all the pieces around you so you can connect perfectly. At this point, I know the show so well that if something did happen in one of my scenes, I could totally cover for it.”

Courtney also highlighted the message behind the show, which she said shows that no matter how big or small an individual is, they can make a difference in the world around them.

“With songs such as ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life,’ even though times are bad, they’re about making the best of a terrible situation,” Courtney said. “It really does show you that things do tend to turn out pretty well, no matter how bad you might think they are right now.”

For more information about Walnut Street Theatre’s production of “Annie,” now running through early January, visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org.