A slender, wide-eyed young man springs onto the stage of the Park West Theater in Chicago and spirals into a double-pirouette pencil turn. Painted white from head-to-toe, the movement of his frame resembles that of a flower petal whipped up by a breeze. But Corey Bishop, is in fact a Greek Statue and prompted by a musical cue, he transitions to a rhythmic staccato routine demonstrating great physical strength and attentiveness to his precise pantomimes. Suddenly he freezes and reaches for a curtain which he quickly peels away revealing a naked Mona Lisa. In a flutter, the 24 year-old actor collapses sharply to the stage floor where he is veiled in a curtain of black lace.
Bishop’s contributing role in this year’s Chicago Takes Off performance is one of many times in which he dedicates his artistic talent to benefit various causes, including HIV/AIDS. Alongside fellow performers from groups such as Hubbard Street Dance, The Joffrey Ballet, and Giordano Jazz Dance, Bishop played the role of one of three Greek Statues who partook in an exposition of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The French burlesque-themed show, which runs every March, donates most of its proceeds to charity. “I was the guy who unveiled the naked Mona,” says Bishop, “It definitely got quite a reaction.”
The small-town, Southern Baptist boy’s big presence on stage comes from rather unsuspecting roots and a theater scene with far less fanfare. A six hour drive South of Chicago, Bishop’s hometown of Harrisburg, Illinois offered him little in the way of performing arts, but he seized every opportunity that came his way. “When I was 5 years old, I started to play piano and would perform on my neighbor’s baby grand at dinner parties,” says Bishop. “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a performer.”
Bishop’s mother enrolled him in dance and music classes as a child, but it wasn’t until he was given the part of Sky Masterson in his high school’s rendition of Guys and Dolls that Bishop had his first taste of the limelight. “Unfortunately, I had to kiss a girl named Angie Morris,” laments Bishop, “but it was worth it to have that part in the play.” After an overwhelmingly positive theater experience in his high school, Bishop decided to pursue performing arts in college.
At Northwestern University, Bishop was finally able to explore a thriving arts community where he received his degree in musical theater before moving to New York with a flock of fellow artists. After months of auditions and hundreds of casting calls, Bishop was disheartened by his lack of success in the Big Apple. “I guess I felt like a small fish in a big pond,” says Bishop, “… I don’t think I was pretty enough for New York.” So six months later, he returned to Chicago and secured a job with Apple’s Genius Bar, focusing in HR and teaching workshops. When it seemed his acting career had reached a dead-end, Bishop’s persistence and big heart landed him parts in shows at theaters like the Park West.
Through his participation in local theater, Bishop is continuing to make achievements for himself as a performer, but is now focusing his greatest effort on pursuing his art as a means of giving back. Working closely with Chicago Takes Off co-producer Todd Kiech on several projects, Bishop’s most recent performance benefited the Test Positive Aware Network. Though he is unsure what the future holds, he does have some lasting, strong convictions: “No matter what I do, I give it my all, and I find my best work comes from the heart,” he says smiling.
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