Young actors make the profession move forward. Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre specializes in child productions. Bellevue’s own Bea Corley is currently starring in the theater’s production of “The Secret Garden,” (running through May 6) as lead character Mary Lennox in the Victorian-era story of a young British girl coming of age. The Reporter was able to send questions to Corley.
How did you get into acting? What is your background performing?
My interest in acting started because my parents took me and my two sisters to see shows at almost every theatre in Seattle! My oldest sister, Mae, started acting at youth theatres and then taking on some roles in professional productions (she was Jane in Village Theatre’s Mary Poppins a few years ago) so I was around theatre all the time and started doing youth shows at Studio East. One of my first roles was non-speaking, Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. Gradually I moved up to speaking roles and going to bigger auditions with my sister. Last year Mae and I did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Seattle Children’s Theatre together. That was one of my first shows with professional adult actors. I loved it!
How did you audition for The Secret Garden? How did you find out you got the part? What was your reaction?
Auditions started late last year. First there was an “open call” which means anyone interested in auditioning can come. I think there were hundreds of kids over a few days who auditioned for Mary and Colin. They called me back for about three more auditions, over several months. Each time there were fewer kids there, until the last one when there were only about 12 girls. I had to sing in front of Lucy Simon, the composer of The Secret Garden. It made me very nervous to sing in front of the woman who wrote the songs! The day after my final audition, the casting director called my mom and told her I got the part. I remember being really surprised, excited, and also nervous. I knew it was a big role and I would have a lot of responsibility, but I was so happy.
How has working at The 5th on this production been? What have been the highlights and what have been the challenges?
I can’t believe after so many years of watching shows at The 5th with my family that I get to be on this stage and work with many actors who I have admired from the audience. One of the best parts is working with people who are experts at what they do. There is a woman who helps me with all my costume changes and another who makes sure I am in all the right places at the right time. They have been doing this for years and make everything run smoothly. I enjoy learning about all the different jobs in theatre. Also, I get to work with Daisy Eagan, who won the Tony for playing the role of Mary on Broadway when she was about my age. She plays Martha, the maid, now. We went out to dinner several times and she let me ask questions about the role. It really helps to have someone who understands what I am going through. One big challenge is that I am in almost every scene and have many costume changes, so there is a lot to remember and since they are reworking the show for Broadway, they change things every day, like lines and staging, right up until opening!
Would you like to keep acting or otherwise be involved in theatre after the production?
Definitely! Working with such talented people inspires me to want to work really hard. They share so many amazing stories about different shows and people they meet. They all work very hard and seem to love their jobs. I want to love my job too, whether that is acting or some new passion I develop.
What’s your favorite play? What do you do when not dazzling the crowd?
I have so many, I can’t name them all but a few examples are Singin’ In the Rain, Les Misérables, and Hamilton. I haven’t actually seen Hamilton, but I have it all memorized and I love Lin Manuel Miranda so I think I can safely say it is one of my favorites. One day I want to go to New York to see it. Outside of acting I am on the volleyball and basketball team at my school, St. Thomas School. I also have been taking piano for 6 years. I have done some dance, but want to focus more on that as soon as I am not so busy!