One of the highlights of our spring family music production is the tradition of bringing in guest artists to work with our community cast. Having a mix of novice and professional actors sets the stage for idea exchange, development of new techniques, and fresh takes on the material. We are honored to have Clara Kundin as this year’s guest artist to take on the role of Nancy in our production of Oliver!. Clara is a professional actor and the Executive Director of The Rebel Playhouse, an educational children’s theater company in New York City. But before she took a bite of the Big Apple, she started acting right here at the Arts Center in our Summer Youth Theatre productions! We talked to Clara about what it means to make this journey back to her hometown and what audiences can expect in this beloved musical production. Here’s what she had to say…
What is it like to come back to Lawrence to perform as a guest artist?
It’s surreal. I’ve been wanting to do more regional theatre and this was a great way to get back into musicals. I work with kids a lot in New York City, so this seemed like a natural fit. I don’t consider myself a ‘triple threat,’ and in NY, you really have to dance as well as sing and act to be in musicals, and I’ve missed singing lately!
What is special about this production?
Oliver! is a hard musical to do as it deals with some pretty heavy subject matter. Nancy, in particular, is a hard role. It’s been a challenge to delve into her motivations- what she is going through and why she chooses to stay. Those are hard questions to ask and I didn’t enter into it lightly. We have to see the good in their relationship for it to work. There is value in representing that sensitively to an audience and I appreciate Elizabeth taking the time to talk through it with me.
Do you have a favorite moment in the play?
I think Oliver’s solo. Shea sings it so beautifully and I get to swoop in grab him – it’s such a great moment! Also, the fight choreography with Andrew is really fun to do.
Do you have any advice for youth interested in theatre as a potential career?
Just DO IT! Persistence is the most important thing for an actor. Of course you need talent and luck, but it’s the ones who keep fighting and showing up that make it.
Favorite theatre superstition?
I always read cast lists starting from the bottom and work my way up. I remember when I saw the cast list for Annie here at the Arts Center as a kid, I got really worried and shouted out ‘I’m not in it!” And then, I finally saw my name as Annie and couldn’t believe it.
Oliver! opens February 22. Get your tickets now and see Clara and the rest of the talented cast bring the tale of Oliver Twist to life.