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COCA Spotlight: Lisa Mitchell “Singer taps ‘70s tunes for Sundays at Four”

By: Amanda Sieradzki, COCA | September 13, 2017

Leading up to a show, singer and professor Lisa Mitchell brews a cup of hot tea. She believes in exercising and preserving one’s voice and finds ways to loosen and warm up her throat, steering clear of dairy, sugar, or coffee products. As part of her pre-performance rituals she’ll go through her songs three or four times a day, and though she says she’s good at making up forgotten lyrics on the spot, memorization is imperative for her comfortability.

All of Mitchell’s preparation will pay off for Thomas University’s Sundays at Four on Sept.17, where she’s envisioning how to embody the “Celebrate the ‘70s!” theme. With the resurgence of 70s music in popular culture, she anticipates the “YMCA” by the Village People will make an appearance as a way to get the audience moving. Though it will be her first time performing at the Thomasville Music and Drama Troupe, she’s hopeful that the venue’s lighting will allow her to see the audience—an inclination that those riddled with stage fright might reject.  

“I like to see people’s mouths moving and singing along with me,” admits Mitchell. “It’s fun, and the most rewarding part is to see the audience smiling and nodding. Even when you can’t see, you can still feel in the air when everyone is really focused or listening.”

This kind of communication is key for Mitchell, who has served on the faculty at Thomas University’s Speech and Theater Department for nearly 14 years. In the classroom, Mitchell uses her performance-based background and involvement in both choir and theater communities, challenging her students to articulate themselves with clarity and self-assurance.

“I’m inspired by my students who can use the tools they’ve had all their lives to grow and become better communicators and speakers,” says Mitchell. “When you’re confident in front of other people, they feel better and you feel better. Push yourself and exude that confidence and it’ll help you to be better, too.”

Growing up in Georgia, Mitchell was always involved with music at her school and church. She looked up to one of her first choral instructors, Janet Johnson, who equipped her with the tools to become a better singer. She can pinpoint when she first fell in love with the stage, however, during her fifth-grade production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Swing the feather dusters, swing that broom, the wizard has ordered us to clean the room,” sing-songs Mitchell, who can still repeat her part verbatim. “I was singing almost by myself in front of a hundred people, and I thought, ‘This is awesome, I love this.’ It was definitely a pivotal point.”

Mitchell earned her undergraduate degree in theater and her master’s in English education from Florida State University. Post-graduation, she immersed herself in New York City’s Broadway theater scene, taking part in numerous productions.

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