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Create This: Musically minded ASU student sings and dances her way through college
by Tara Brite
published on Thursday, February 3, 2005

Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Theater freshman Marissa Mills-Chandler (pictured) puts her artistic skills to the test when SPM gives her an assortment of random items and the chance to play arts and crafts. Mills-Chandler will perform in the Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre production of Footloose Feb. 4-20 at the Stagebrush Theater in Scottsdale.

Every week, The State Press Magazine features an artist by interviewing him or her, explaining his or her craft and challenging that person to spontaneously create. The artist, who can be an actor, painter, sculptor, dancer or musician, is given a goody bag of random materials and asked to make something out of them or use them in a creative way. This week's materials include old photos, gold stars, wire and beads. Read how musical theater freshman Marissa Mills-Chandler braves this installment of "Create this."

Music is Marissa Mills-Chandler's life.

Mills-Chandler, a musical theater freshman, says she knew performing was her calling when she performed in her first community theater musical at the age of 13.

"I thought to myself, 'Wow. I think this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,' " she says.

When SPM hands Mills-Chandler its goody bag of art materials outside Charlie's Cafe in the Barrett Honors College Center Complex, the singer's quiet disposition takes over.

"I'm not a visual arts person at all," she says, fumbling with a strand of wire.

Mills-Chandler, who has performed in musicals including "The King and I," "Camelot," and "Fame," is currently starring as a chorus member in "Footloose," which opens tomorrow and will run until Feb. 20. The musical is presented by Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre, a traveling theater troupe.

"I'm dancing, singing and acting; all of the components of every musical. It's going to be an awesome show," she says, half smiling, half concentrating on placing Mardi Gras beads around gold metal stars.

She thoughtfully examines the other materials, which she has carefully laid out on the table. She picks up the scissors and begins cutting through a piece of green, flower-print paper.

Mills-Chandler says acting and singing are her favorite parts of musical theater, and she has been doing both since she began choir lessons in the fourth grade.

While she adds that she also took some dance classes when she was young, she says all she remembers is her instructor saying, "Sway like a tree!"

"But I don't think that really counts," she says.

She says she began dancing seriously in the seventh grade, and is still honing her skills by taking classes at ASU.

Shifting her concentration back to the art in front of her, Mills-Chandler hesitates, then grabs a black feather from the table and swiftly presses it into a bead as a finishing touch.

For a moment, the afternoon sunlight shines down on the stars in the art piece, sparkling in Mills-Chandler's eyes.

She is finally satisfied with what she calls "my wind chime."

"I think I'm done," she says, giggling over her creation. "By far, this is one of the strangest things I've made."

Even though it's obvious her experience is not in the visual field, Mills-Chandler still considers her work art.

"I think (art) is just something that expresses yourself in ways you couldn't otherwise," she says, examining her beaded and wired masterpiece.

"Just go with it. OK?" she says, the confidence of a natural performer in her voice.

As far as her artistic inspiration goes, Mills-Chandler relies on her naturally optimistic nature to find beauty in life.

She pauses for a moment, her "wind chime" hanging from her hand, and pulls open a mental filing cabinet of songs, singing softly to herself. She laughs modestly and says she has a terrible memory.

"I like just looking at the world," she says. "There are lots of beautiful things out there."

Reach the reporter at .

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