If you have a brand where art imitates life, make sure you show it’s many sides. That’s why we go behind the curtain of a landmark theater in Wilmington, NC. As part of our, Why I Love Thalian Hall series, we introduce you to three moms who are actors. As you’ll see, they are acting in a play that teaches a life lesson to young children, while at the same time, they’re doing plenty of that in their own lives.
Meet three women with a common bond. They balance the dicey demands of acting, with the multi-dimensional role of a lifetime – being a mom. Between them, Maggie Miller, Alisa Harris, , and Nina Repeta have four sons; all under the age of ten. They’re appearing onstage in Thalian Halls’ Pied Piper Children’s Musical presentation of: The Adventures of Bonnie Reid, Queen of the Pirate Ants.
They take performing and parenting seriously, but their shared experiences and comradery spark peals of laughter. “We are changing lives with every show,” says Nina Repeta. “There are children who might not otherwise experience theater, but to be in this space, it’s unlike any other theater. It’s like being in a sacred place. Even if you can’t articulate it you can feel it.” The other women agree. Maggie Miller says, “You feel the energy of every performer who has stepped on that stage and gone before you.” Alisa Harris quips, “Some of those performers may not be gone. There’s a lot of haunted history here, too!”
Alisa plays Bonnie Reid, Queen of the Pirates. She says the theme of this play is, Sharing. And then, in her best pirate voice she explains, “Bonnie seeks this treasure, and then, she doesn’t want to share it. But then she realizes it’s more important to share, because treasure is best when it is shared.” Fortunately, some 6,000 children are expected to share in this interactive, life lesson. First and second graders from New Hanover county schools will be bussed to the downtown landmark theater for 10 performances over 5 days.
“I dare any actor to tell me there’s a better sound than when you hear 400 children at a time giggling and laughing,” says Maggie Miller. Alisa agrees. “It’s just magic.” “They really get into it, and it never gets old,” says Nina.
Sometimes, the actor/moms must remind themselves of those delightful moments when the demands of motherhood, evening rehearsals, and morning performances, create a constant state of sleep deprivation. “But you know that’s something you learn by being in theater. The show must go on,” says Maggie. She recalls the time she had to step in and replace an actor who didn’t show up. “You preach this stuff to your kids. You show up. You fight through your fear. You must be brave. You do your job.”
Integrating their two worlds is very important to these women. They sometimes bring their sons to rehearsals to better understand what mom does outside the home. “My son, Ashton (4yrs old) is adopted and I am a single mom,” says Alisa. “So, making sure he sees me having friends and doing other things, is important to me.” As for Nina’s 8yr old son, Banks, she says he’s getting into the act. “He actually found a way to sort of audition after watching what goes on here. Now I’m riding the coattails of my son!” It’s important to these women that the quarter of a century tradition of Pied Piper Theater be viewed as a family event. Maggie’s 2 yr old son, Mac, is not quite old enough to tag along. On the other hand, she says, Henry is fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes. “I think even as Henry (5 yrs old) and Ashton sit and watch us rehearse, this place creates a reverence that keeps them in line. You’d think having all those children in the audience at one time, there’d be chaos. But, even they behave.”
When you ask these performers to explain the magic of the Pied Piper experience they’ll tell you it’s not like watching cartoons on a flat screen. They say it’s not just that it’s specifically geared for young children. They claim it’s funny and true in a theatrical sense with sound, music, a curtain, and a setting like no other. You won’t find Thalian Hall on Netflix.
“This is a historic monument to what we represent,” says Nina. “It’s the whole history of Wilmington, NC. This theater is the only one of its kind this side of the Mississippi River.” Take it from these moms who act, a Pied Piper performance will lead you to a theatrical experience of pure enchantment.
There is one public performance of, The Adventures of Bonnie Reed, Queen of the Pirate Ants on Sunday, January 29th at 3:00pm. Tickets are $10 each. For ticket information visit www.thalianhall.org or call 910 632-2285
As a Strategic Communications Consultant, Mary Jane McKittrick is a messaging expert who specializes in the art of the pitch. Mary Jane skillfully works with business professionals to craft engaging, effective messaging that gets results. Mary Jane is a former TV News Anchor, Reporter, and Producer for 3 network affiliate stations. She has worked behind the camera in Entertainment TV, and as an on-camera host of 2 nationally syndicated TV shows. Ms. McKittrick was in charge of overseeing communications for 5 statewide offices while serving as Director of Corporate Communications for a large healthcare company in North Carolina.