Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Just seven years old when she took to the stage, Kate, a fifth-grader at Hinkle Creek Elementary in Noblesville, found her calling, and in the past four years has starred in a dozen shows, including “Bye-Bye Birdie,” “Seussical, The Music Man,” “Joseph & the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat” and “Bridge to Terabithia.” Currently, she nabbed the role of Tiny Tim in the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s (IRT) annual production of “A Christmas Carol.”
She has performed at a number of venues, including Nickel Plate Players, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre and the Belfry Theatre, but this is Kate’s first professional gig, and she’s loving it. With a real job comes real sacrifice. In order to play Tiny Tim, directors asked Kate to cut 10 inches of her hair. Though it was a bit emotional to do, she donated it to Locks of Love, thrilled to do something good. Another perk, because it’s a professional gig, she gets paid.
“It’s all going into her college savings account,” says Kate’s mom, Kristen.
Since the IRT puts on so many performances, the younger actors are split into two casts to share the performances. This not only keeps actors from getting burnt out but also enables the younger actors to not miss a ton of school. In total, Kate will miss 11 days.
“The IRT has put on this show for so many years that they have everything running like a well-oiled machine,” Kristen says.
The cast rehearses Mondays through Fridays from 4:30-8:30 p.m. with one weekday off as well as Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
“It’s a big commitment,” Kristen adds. “She has to miss other things she likes to do like her sewing classes, horseback riding and dance. But she never complains because she adores theatre so much.”
Kate, 11, has done a lot of singing and musical theatre. In fact, this year she and Ali, 12, won the Indiana State Fair Junior Vocal Group. In addition, she recorded a Broadway CD and Christmas CD with her voice teacher.
Over the summer, Kate and Ali participated in the IRT’s Summer Conservatory where they practiced improv, combat and musical theatre. They also did an intensive weeklong workshop in New York City. Kristen says both girls like the IRT experience better than the NYC one.
“The IRT instructors pour themselves into the kids,” Kristen says. “Plus, it’s usually not a huge group so they learn a lot in a short amount of time.”
Acting is undoubtedly a competitive field.
“Getting rejected in theatre I think is a redirection of something better,” Kristen says. “But it’s still hard when you get your hopes up and don’t get the part.”
Kate has already learned to take rejection in stride.
“It often has nothing to do with your talent,” Kate says. “The director might want someone who is taller or has a different hair color.”
Navigating a theatre schedule is a bit like having a child on a travel sports team.
“The difference is they’re not practicing for the big game but for the big show,” Kristen says. “And to see how much my daughters love it makes every minute worthwhile.”
The IRT is located at 140 W. Washington Street in Indianapolis. “A Christmas Carol” runs from November 23 until December 26. Call the ticket office at 317-635-5252 or visit them online at irtlive.com for more information.