Age: 29 (30 in May)
Hometown: Ashland, VA!
Education: BFA in Theatre for Youth from Shenandoah Conservatory

What hooked you into performing arts & theatre when you were younger? 
My parents met and fell in love in the theatre. They even got engaged while my mother was playing Cinderella and my father was playing the prince. They made a great big photo album of all their productions which I loved to flip through as a little girl. I was amazed by my parent’s ability to transform into completely different people by simply putting on a costume and stepping into someone else’s shoes. That album sparked my imagination and motivated me to tell as many stories and play as many different characters as I could.

Was there one experience that drew you in? 
I was performing skits at St. Ann’s vacation bible school one summer. In one of the skits, my character asked someone in the audience for a hug. So, I picked a child from the audience to give a hug and continued on with the scene. Then, one child in the very back of the audience got so excited that I was giving away free hugs that they escaped their mother’s arms, ran up to the stage, and hugged me around the knees. Then ALL the children in the audience rushed the stage and joined in one big group hug with me in the center. In that moment, I realized the power children’s theatre.

What were your favorite memories of theatre in Ashland when you were younger?
When I arrived in Ashland with my family when I was in 7th grade, I was an awkward, dramatic, 7th grader. Luckily for me, I had an outlet for all my creative energy through the Ashland Variety Show. There I sang and danced my way into a community that continues to support my every creative endeavor.
I also looked forward to every holiday performance of A Christmas Carol at Randolph Macon. When they stopped performing A Christmas Carol annually, I took it upon myself to make sure Ashland had a holiday show to enjoy. Since then, the Whistle Stop has performed The Gift of The Magi, The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, Little Women and The Little Match Girl.

What inspired you to bring theatre productions geared towards children and influenced by classic literature to Ashland and the surrounding area?
While I loved being apart of the Ashland Variety Show and watching A Christmas Carol, these shows were too few and far between while I was growing up. The only way I could enjoy the theatre regularly was by begging my parents to drive me into the city and shill out some big bucks. Once I got my degree in Theatre for Youth from Shenandoah Conservatory, it was important to me to use my skills and talents to support the town that supported me. First, I wanted to bring regular theatrical production to Ashland. Then I wanted to make sure the theatre I provided was affordable so it could be accessible to everyone. Finally, I wanted to make QUALITY theatre that would positively impact my audience. Children’s theatre gets a bad name and is rarely appreciated for the invitation and creativity that is possible while telling these stories. By taking classic works of literature and fairy tales and restaging them to be engaging and relevant to modern audiences, the Whistle Stop Theatre has been able to contribute to the development of the next generation’s empathy, empowerment, and creativity in our community.

What do you find most rewarding and/or fun to do with your Whistle Stop Theatre Company work?
The Whistle Stop process is unique. All of our creators -actors, directors, designers, and venues – are volunteer and we only have one week to rehearse before we perform. This process has attracted the most dedicated, creative artists I have ever had the pleasure of working with. It just goes to show how far we can go when we all come together and help one another.

Lastly, what would you most recommend for a visitor, new to Ashland, to see or do while they are here?
Come to a Whistle Stop show!

Whistle Stop Theatre Presents “The Selfish Giant” March 2, 9, & 16 at Ashland Coffee & Tea. Tickets available HERE
Picture courtesy of www.louisericks.weebly.com