Lee Coleé Atnip loves working with kids and they love working with her.
“They’re so enthusiastic,” she says. “They’re like a sponge. I like to nurture that spark and that natural talent.”
Talent for what? Performing. It’s what Lee has been doing since the age of three and still does when she’s not teaching dance or acting in several venues.
She attended the American Academy of Performing Arts in New York City, and since then it seems she has done just about everything in the entertainment industry.
Lee toured on the professional theater circuit, recorded CDs, did TV and radio commercials, and even performed in off-Broadway shows. She has danced with the Phil Black Studio in New York City and the Tulsa Civic Ballet in Oklahoma. She has run talent agencies in several cities and has handled corporate entertainment. Not too long ago, Lee was directing, producing, and organizing a week of entertainment for a convention in Las Vegas.
Now she is happy to be giving lessons in her home studio and performing only occasionally.
“I’m over the big stuff. Show business has too much wear and tear with little time for home and family,” Lee explains.
Lee came to Wimberley from Dallas by way of Alaska. She and husband Ray found Wimberley by accident and returned to explore the area in 2001.
“We saw this house and we knew we were home,” she recalls.
The small village of Wimberley supports the arts in a big way.
“Wimberley seems to attract individuals who want to express themselves,” Lee says. “Maybe it’s self-perpetuating. You have to nurture art and we nurture each other.”
The community began to see Lee’s skill right after she moved to Wimberley, when she put on her first musical theater camp for kids at Old Glory Ranch. After working from nine to six for a week, 27 kids performed Annie and astonished their audiences.
“I noticed few kids on the streets and I thought they probably wanted to do something, so I put out a notice for a summer music camp that would culminate in a musical,” Lee recalls. “Kids came out of the woodwork. A lot of people were worried no one would attend, but they did. It was a full house on opening night.”
She still puts on that Summer Music Theatre Bootcamp, but now takes the luxury of doing it in 11 days. This year’s play will be The Little Mermaid and auditions are being held now through March for children ages 8 through 17. Performances are scheduled for June 9-30.
“If you treat kids with respect and set expectations and demand they meet them, they will usually meet those expectations,” Lee says.
In addition to that summer camp, Lee also teaches children’s classes in dance—ballet, jazz, and lyrical, tap, and music theater. She even has a preschool dance program for kids ages 4-6.
She mentors youths with the talent to go perform professionally.
She holds classes in film and theater acting for adults.
She started the Black Diamond Cabaret Theatre where she has performed with other highly talented musicians like Wimberley’s Linda Sriro and noted film, theater, and television star Kirk Griffith.
She is helped in these endeavors by Pam Shultz, Amanda Forsyth, Rodger Marion, and Cary Michaels.
This season’s Black Diamond production is Freckleface Strawberry, a musical based on a book by actor Julianne Moore—known for her own freckles.
The title comes from a nickname Julianne dealt with when she was younger and the book reveals to children that they have many options in dealing with things that make them different, but the best option is to embrace those things, “because, after all, the things that make you different also make you YOU.”
The play will debut at the Price Center in San Marcos April 26-28, then move to the Wimberley VFW Hall May 4-5, then Lee will take the production on the road.
“Our goal is to make people feel better when they leave than when they came in,” Lee says.
Lee reaches that goal in everything she has a hand in, finding a spark in others and nurturing it.
For more information, call 512-847-7934 or visit the web site at leecoleestudios.com.