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CCBC Essex Graduate Hopes to Brighten Young Actors' Lives

Rachel Hirshorn, a 2001 graduate, will direct the college's fall academic theater production, "These Shining Lives," which runs from Oct. 20-25.

Rachel Hirshorn knew she wanted to be a performer when she moved from Michigan to live with relatives in Maryland 12 years ago.

The problem, she said, was that she had no direction and wasn’t sure how to accomplish her goal. Much of that changed the day she stepped onto the campus of CCBC Essex.

“I didn’t have the best grades in high school, so CCBC quickly became a blessing to me,” said Hirshorn, 30. “The professors there really offered me the guidance I needed.”

Hirshorn went on to graduate from CCBC Essex in 2002 before earning a bachelor's degree in theater from UMBC and a master’s in fine arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Along the way, Hirshorn has performed for various regional theater productions, filmed TV pilots, appeared in commercials and done various voiceover work.

But none of that felt completely fulfilling to Hirshorn.

This led the actor/director to come full circle this year as she recently returned to CCBC Essex to direct the college’s academic theater fall production: “These Shining Lives.”

“You don’t feel very needed filming a Pantene Pro V shampoo commercial,” Hirshorn said. “You only feel like ‘Well, they really like my hair.’ Getting the chance to work with young actors and actresses is very rewarding.”

Hirshorn returned to CCBC Essex as part of the college’s “Year of the Performing Arts” campaign. CCBC Director of Performing Arts Anne Lefter said the school wants to promote its various programs along with highlighting the success of its many graduates.

Lefter said Hirshorn is a prime example of how successful a performing artist can be through hard work and a quality education.

“We have had graduates go on to perform for symphony orchestras, dance on Broadway and appear on TV,” Lester said. “Having Rachel come in and work with our students provides them with a real-life example of where they can go if they work hard.”

Hirshorn said that what made this directing experience even more enjoyable was the script of “These Shining Lives,” which runs from today through Oct. 25. The play is based on the real-life experiences of the “Radium Girls.”

Set during the Depression era, these women go to work for a watch company, only to later discover that they were being exposed to radium on a daily basis, which led to fatal radiation poisoning for many of them.

Despite the grim subject, Hirshorn said the story is not dark and is actually uplifting as it tells the tragic stories of these women.

“It’s not a fairy tale, but it starts like one,” she said. “It’s not a tragedy, but it ends like one. It’s just a powerful story that highlights this horrible moment in American history.”

Hirshorn said the directing experience at CCBC provided her the opportunity to return home, and she plans on sticking around for a while. She is set to begin teaching a speech and communication course at CCBC and is looking for acting opportunities in the Baltimore-Washington region.

“I’m getting a chance to do what I love and hopefully make a difference at the same time,” she said.

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Tickets for "These Shining Lives" are $8 for general admission, $5 for seniors, students and alumni. Call the CCBC Box Office at 443-840-2787 for tickets and show information.


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