Audrey Powell, a local 12-year-old, has temporarily traded her typical life as a STMA Middle School East 7th grader for some time in the spotlight. She was cast as one of two “Rugrats” in the Children’s Theatre Company’s production of Annie earlier this fall, and she’s now working her way through 80-plus performances as the show’s second-youngest cast-member.
Powell was no stranger to the stage before Annie began. She dances at Jete Dance Center in Rogers, where she developed a passion for musical theatre-style dancing. This interest led her to enroll in a week-long training program in Las Vegas last summer, where she had the opportunity to train with Cirque de Soleil performers, trainers from an elite ballet studio, and performers from famous musicals, including Hamilton.
The week in Vegas spurred her desire to seek performance opportunities at a higher level. Upon her return, Powell first auditioned for A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theatre, and while she made it to the final round of call-backs, she ultimately was not cast. Undeterred, Powell then heard of a few openings in the upcoming production of Annie. Casting for Annie had originally been completed before the Covid-19 pandemic began, but a small number of performers could no longer take part in the show when live theater re-opened after an 18-month hiatus. Powell auditioned for one of these open spots, and she was surprised and delighted to get a part.
“I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this is happening!'” Powell said of her reaction to the news.
Rehearsals began in earnest just one month before the opening curtain, with practices running from 4:30-9 p.m. four nights per week, plus all day Saturdays and Sundays. The week leading up to opening night, dubbed Tech Week, required 60-70 hours of rehearsal. To accommodate this grueling schedule, Powell enrolled in STMA Online, and she brought her school materials along to rehearsals to complete schoolwork during any breaks. Performances of Annie began on November 7 and will span 86 shows, running through Jan. 9.
“It really has been a lot of fun,” she said of her experience in Annie. “The adult actors have been doing it for years, and they have so many stories to tell. I like hearing about their experiences and learning about what it takes to put on a professional show.”
“With this kid, it’s always been ‘hang on for the ride,’” Audrey’s mom, Jessica, said of her daughter. “We’ve always just known there’s going to be no stopping her. We’re just here for the entertainment and the support system, and we let her drive the train.”
Jessica, who temporarily stopped working as a substitute teacher for STMA schools to support her daughter’s theater career, said it’s been a fantastic experience for Audrey to work with and learn from such a talented cast.
“As a parent, it’s amazing to sit back and watch your kid grow and bloom and shine,” she said.
Tickets are still available for Annie on the Children’s Theatre Company website. The show runs through January 9, at which point Powell will go back to her version of normal life, which includes dancing, competitive cheer, modeling, and a return to in-person school. Next summer, she plans to audition again for another show.
“I love musical theatre,” she said. “In auditioning, you get a million no’s for every one yes, but you have to keep trying. The more you try, the more you’ll know what might help you succeed.”