January 24, 2019
Small Town Studio Finds Creativity Outside the Lines
Written by Cameron Potts
In Corsicana, Texas, the Main Street is called Beaton Street. Now as a writer, I could think of so many different puns to share, such as the joy we had in visiting businesses off the “Beaton” path. OK, well, maybe there is only one pun I can think of, but it still works.
Among the small businesses we met during our 24 hours in Corsicana, there was one that was definitely off the Beaton path, a business that you don’t often see in small towns – an improv, acting and open mic studio.
Called Outside the Lines Creative Studio, this unique venture was started by husband and wife team Marcus Baldwin and Julie Mitchell. She grew up in Corsicana, but along with Baldwin, had been living in Hollywood the last several years, both exploring their acting chops. Like many couples, when the children came, they started to think about a slower, simpler life in small towns.
Mitchell and Baldwin moved back to Corsicana about 18 months ago, having visited family and friends in the area for years. Roughly 55 miles southeast of Dallas, Corsicana is a creative hotbed, with art collectives and other ventures sprinkled throughout the town. Outside the Lines taps into that creative nature, giving children and families and anyone, basically, a chance to tap into their desire to perform.
“We were doing films and commercials in LA and we liked that life but it was time to be part of a community again,” Mitchell said. “My family is from here, but downtown, there was really not a lot happening. But since we started this, it has been all so amazing. New businesses, new friends. It has all been sort of magic.”
“We came back to visit at Christmas and really, that wasn’t fair,” Baldwin said with a laugh. “It was so beautiful and fun and magical. We knew we had to stay then.”
Located on Beaton Street, their space is unique. With a small stage at the front, they offer improv classes for children and students, while also having family classes. In the back is a dance studio, also used for yoga. They also have an open mic night that draws crowds.
On the day of our visit, improv class was taking place, one where children and their parents could be part of the class. Baldwin said it is this type of class that gets the greatest reaction from aspiring actors of all ages.
“It is amazing when you see parents doing improv with their kids,” he said. “So often, adults are reserved and don’t want to look silly. This gets them out of their comfort zone and the kids love it. During one skit, Baldwin was a bus driver and students in the class had to choose different personas, called out from the audience. One student was the Flash superhero; another was a valley girl, although the teenager had no idea what that was. Still, another student was a butterfly.”
Growing up in Corsicana, Mitchell had been doing plays in town at the local theater since she was three. Being back, they both marvel at how supportive the locals are to their mission. On their first open mic night, only 10 people showed up. By the third time, more than 50 came through the doors. They knew then there was a need for this in town.
“We knew this would be a great creative space, but we have been so thrilled with the creative energy here,” Mitchell said.
As small business owners, they struggle with how to market a unique business. Since they offer so many different classes, it can be difficult to describe what they do. They like to try new things, like a wine-and-improv night. They also rent out the space for parties. As Mitchell said, they have three unique audiences, but looking in as an outsider, they likely have more than that.
Working actors, the couple continues to stir those creative juices traveling to Dallas to take on new roles. But their love is now squarely in Outside of the Lines, taking this road off the “Beaton” path.