by Lorie Lewis Ham
At KRL we like to profile local actors and directors to spotlight some of the incredible talent that is in our local theatres. This week we are profiling Corey Ralston from Hanford who is an actor and director who works primarily with the Kings Players who perform at the Temple Theatre. Corey is also on their board of directors.
Corey first stepped onto the stage at the tender age of five as part of a summer drama program through the Hanford Recreation Department where the kids wrote and performed in their own show. “I played a dimwitted king,” said Corey. “Right after that I was in a musical version of Snow White and the seven Dwarves and have been in productions ever since. As a nervous child I felt so free being able to play someone who was not myself.”
As a child, Corey found that he loved acting so much he even tried his hand in Hollywood with an agent and going on auditions weekly. He was able to get a guest starring role on the Disney Channel program KIDS Incorporated in 1991 where he got to act opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Later when Corey moved to the Los Angeles area to attend Azusa Pacific, he did background work for several years. His acting credits include Buffy, American Dreams, Frasier, ER, Norm, 7th Heaven, and movies such as X-Men, Catch Me If You Can, Pirates of the Caribbean and Spiderman. “My family loved being able to turn on the TV any given night and seeing me in one or more programs.”
He also worked on Gilmore Girls as a Chilton Student and resident of Stars Hollow during the first two seasons. “That show was notorious for having very late hours. I once worked 21 hours straight on an episode. The cast and crew were very lovely though. Lauren Graham and Melissa McCarthy were fantastic and welcoming.”
While in LA, Corey wanted to work in casting and talent management as well. “I wanted to nurture talent and see it succeed.” He looked hard for an internship and found one, then moved on to get a job with CED where he worked in the voice over department. “Daily I would encounter so many great actors from shows I watched growing up. I scheduled their audition times together for fun. Like Tom Bosley and Marion Ross or Elliot Gould and Christina Pickels or the mom from One Day At A Time and Schneider.”
However, according to Corey, it didn’t take him long to realize that Hollywood was really only concerned with the bottom line—money. The longer he worked for the agencies the more disheartened he got with all of it and swore off it one day. “When I moved back home to Hanford in 2004, I fell in love all over again with theatre and realized that it is the purest form of entertainment.”
Corey also started directing at a young age. In high school, he began a teen drama program and directed his first show called Rehearsal For Murder at the Temple Theater. “I enjoy directing so much it has outweighed my desire to be on the stage. There is something so magical about giving birth to an idea and seeing it carried out on stage. As an actor, I feel I understand fellow actors and can direct them in a way they understand. As a photographer (Corey has his own photography business) I love setting up the perfect scene and it translates to the stage. I have a bucket list of shows to direct and each one is more challenging than the next.”
“I have known Corey since high school,” shared Jennifer Toledo who recently worked with Corey in The Graduate. “He is a gifted actor, director, and photographer, just to name a few of his many gifts. He has an amazing faith in both God and people and is a true example of what a good friend should be. Without his help and encouragement I would have never been able to finally get on stage and do what I had always dreamed of.”
As a stage actor Corey has played many roles in local shows and has enjoyed them all but admits to being a sucker for musicals as a performer. “And I am passionate about dramas and wish I could direct more of them.”
When Corey chooses a project he wants to be a part of, he said that a script has to really touch him. “And not just cry or laugh because I am able to do that with almost any piece of work but it has to really speak to my heart. I want to teach people about love. I feel teaching people about love helps them see God and what a gift that is. A lot of my dream scripts are about love.”
Corey tries to gently push the envelope here in the Valley and get people interested in some heavier more daring work. Last summer Corey brought Rent to Visalia, which he directed for Fourth Wall. “Directing Rent still seems like a surreal experience. It started as a little idea and blew up into a huge beautiful production. I had to pinch myself every day that it was really happening.”
Elicia Russell was the stage manager for Rent and has gone on to work with Corey in Hanford. “Corey is very talented and has a great eye for what he wants to see on the stage as well as what looks good from the audience’s perspective.”
Local actor Corenn Peterson has also worked with Corey on many occasions “He’s not only a beautiful person inside and out but he sees the beauty in people and art. I’ve had the privilege of not only being directed by Corey but I’ve had the chance to share the stage with him as well. I’ve gotta say he’s wonderful both ways!”
But theatre is not Corey’s only artistic passion. After returning from Hollywood, Corey soon discovered a new passion in photography and in 2007 he started his own photography business. “I had heaps of time on my hands and really felt such an emptiness from not being able to create art in some way. My mother had a digital camera and I had never really used one before. I became obsessed and starting taking photos nonstop. People kept complimenting me on my “eye” and I really thanked God for showing me I had a gift. It took a leap of faith to explore it as a career and was blessed to find work in that field ever since.”
Balancing everything he does has been a challenge. “I recently looked at a calendar and saw that I would have absolutely no week nights free until September.”
Family is also very important to Corey. “My brother lives for two things, theatre in the valley, and his family,” said Mitchell Ralston. “I feel blessed for how close of a relationship I have with my older brother.”
As to the future, Corey hopes to see his photography business continue to grow and his ultimate dream is to own his own theatre and run a theatre company. “I realized when I moved back to Hanford after living in Los Angeles for five years that I have such an awesome and unique opportunity to direct my dream shows and act in plays I never would’ve got the chance to do in a bigger city.”
Corey’s next project for the Kings Players is directing Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which opens in May. “I am overjoyed and scared to death to put Tennessee Williams on stage. It will be a huge challenge.”
This fall he is also excited to be directing a staged reading of Dustin Lance Black’s play called 8. “This is a very exciting opportunity. Select theaters throughout the country are given one or two nights to perform the show and proceeds go to the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We are performing a few days before the General Election in November and I hope to really give locals something to think about. The play is taken from transcripts of the Prop 8 trial and gives a very balanced view on gay marriage.”
Watch for reviews and information on all of these upcoming shows right here at KRL.