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Meet Ms. Terry


In the summer of 2005, after so many people across the U.S. were left suffering such tremendous loss in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, performing artist Terry Odell decided to put her mind, training, and skills to work in an effort to help those families who had been victimized by that terrible tragedy.  Terry reached out to children in and around her local community of Warwick, New York, and put together her very first program called CPR (Children Performing for Relief).  

    During that time, the kids of CPR worked hard and with such a sense of pride in their purpose, raising over $2,500.00 towards Katrina victims’ relief through their local concerts.  Life skills were built, teamwork and empathy taught, and the effect on the children involved became evident; Terry knew that she had found her calling.   At that moment, she knew she wanted to dedicate the rest of her life to creating a Children’s Theatre group that would be built upon those very principles, and that would welcome and nurture kids from all walks of life, and with any physical or emotional challenge.  The Acting Out Playhouse was born.

    The Acting Out Playhouse is now an extraordinarily welcoming and important learning, social, and theatre community for over 150 Orange County NY children; many of whom have disabilities or are simply in need of a safe haven in which to feel accepted and to thrive.  Since it’s inception, Terry has produced and directed over 30 full-scale productions, presenting them on every type of performing space, from Black Box stages, to some of the largest venues in the area such as The Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center and SUNY Orange.  The children work hard, and complete professionalism is expected from all.  The Acting Out Playhouse offers a wide range of performing arts classes, many of which are taught by “Ms. Terry”, herself, including dance and private vocal lessons.  With her tireless fashion and her unique recipe of acceptance and love, along with hard work and creative direction and choreography, Terry has produced award-winning shows, year after year.


Terry Odell and The Acting Out Playhouse have won 19 TANY Awards in the past 3 years.  Her students have achieved Broadway, Off-Broadway, full-length feature and student film successes.  They have graced the stages all around the Hudson Valley and New York City.  Terry has built a successful school that each and every student refers to as their “other family”.

    To date, Terry Odell has directed, choreographed, and/or performed in over 250 plays during her 40 years in the theatre.  She has studied dance with the incredible Phil Black, voice with Abbe Harkavy, and acting with Jane Hunt and Chuck Stead.  She also holds degrees in Elementary and Special Education.  These experiences and expertise have ultimately led Terry to great success as an educator of musical theatre; one with a very special mission:  to nurture and instill within her students a strong foundation of life skills, and a lasting sense of confidence, love, and acceptance through the performing arts.



Terry Odell:  nominated  for the the inaugural EXCELLENCE IN THEATRE EDUCATION AWARD.

The Tony Awards® and Carnegie Mellon University are proud to present this brand new honor, established to celebrate the educators who transform lives through the power of the arts.  The special award will be given to one deserving teacher at the 2015 Tony Awards Ceremony on June 7, 2015. The recipient will also receive a $10,000 cash prize for his or her school, a flight for two to New York City, hotel accommodations and a pair of tickets to the Tony Awards Ceremony and Gala. Additionally, a select number of finalists will each receive $1,000 for their schools, a flight for one to New York City, hotel accommodations and one ticket to the Tony Awards Nominee Luncheon. For information on the award, please click here.

Read what Karen Thomas, Director of The Warwick Valley Community Center has to say about Ms. Terry and

The Acting Out Playhouse:


 As the director of the Warwick Valley Community Center, I have seen first hand how Terry has changed, shaped, and improved children’s lives through her work.  I have known Terry for approximately ten years. Her natural talent for this work is evidenced by the fact that—despite a background in music—she came to her role in an unconventional way. By forming CPR: Children Perform for Relief, where she taught, directed and choreographed 250 elementary school children in a performance to raise money after the devastating disaster, HURRICANE KATRINA
I have seen numerous children strengthen both their performing/theatrical talents and their personal spirits participating in Terry’s musical theater and dance group at The Acting Out Playhouse. They grow from shy flickering candles to poised outgoing beams that would rival the very spotlights under which they labor—and Terry is the fuel to their flames.  Additionally, she gives kids skills that they can carry with them whether or not they pursue a career on Broadway—though some of her students have done just that.  These children learn from her program how to communicate, express themselves and their emotions, as well as how to observe and analyze motivations and narratives. What Terry is ultimately teaching them is the invaluable skill of how to connect with others.
One anecdote in particular springs to mind. A LGBTQ identified child who was truly struggling, joined Terry's classes and found it to be a non-judgmental and safe space that allowed her to grow and thrive. Terry definitely altered the course of this kid’s life and she certainly was not the only student who benefited in this way. Another indication of Terry’s inclusive lessons occurred when her students organized a peaceful counter-protest against people picketing the local pride parade.  While meritorious in their own right, I can’t help but believe the behavior exhibited by her students is, at least in part, a product of Terry’s teaching.

Terry and her theatre company are a part of our community and she has based her school at the community center where we are low- or no-cost programming. Every year, she arranges trips for her classes to go to Broadway shows and often backstage to meet the cast. This speaks to her desire to serve the community and to develop all those students who want to try, not just the ones that can afford it.  I recommend her wholeheartedly for this award—her efforts and dedication to theater education are of the highest caliber.

Karen Thomas


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