Adventures at Flat Rock Playhouse…

Guest blog by Caroline Quinn


I missed being in Town’s summer show with my theatre family this year – but I had an exciting summer adventure in Flat Rock, NC performing at Flat Rock Playhouse – the Theatre of North Carolina.  Flat Rock is a really neat mountain town founded by people from Charleston looking for a place to cool off during the summer.  Did I mention that it’s at least 10 degrees cooler there?

Caroline as the toothless Molly at Town Theatre; Photo courtesy of Amy Quinn.

I first appeared at Town Theatre five years ago in Annie.  Shannon, the director, cast me as the youngest orphan, Molly, and she didn’t even complain when I showed up for the first read through with a terrible lisp from losing six teeth AFTER she had cast the show.  Since that show, I’ve considered Town Theatre to be my home, and I’ve been addicted to the stage.

At Flat Rock Playhouse this summer, I performed in Gypsy as Young Louise, the oldest daughter of the “stage mom” Rose Hovick.  Young Louise only appears in the first act of the show before being replaced by an adult actress.

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Caroline as a belting Susan Waverly in Town’s White Christmas; Photo courtesy of Amy Quinn

At the start of the show, Young Louise’s mother focuses all of her attention on turning her younger sister Baby June into a star, which makes Louise feel pushed aside by her mother.  It was a very different role than anything I’ve ever played because I was supposed to be quiet and not very confident, and most of my past roles have been feisty characters.  My family and friends thought that one of Mama Rose’s first lines where she had to yell at me, “Sing out Louise!” was very funny.  Anyone who’s heard me belt will understand why that was so amusing to them. After June runs away to get married, Mama Rose wants to turn Louise into a star.  Louise became known as Gypsy Lee Rose, a very famous burlesque star.

I hope to have a successful career in musical theatre, so this opportunity to perform with professional actors, directors and crew who are actively working in the industry was amazing!  I made great friends and learned so much more than I thought possible.  My favorite things about being at Flat Rock Playhouse were working with professional actors like Klea Blackhurst, making new friends, and watching as tour buses line up on “the Rock” to bring groups in from neighboring states to see our show.  That would never get old!  On my days off, my favorite things to do in Flat Rock were hiking to the water falls, swimming in the river, and spending time with my biggest fan, my brother Trace.

I completed 32nd performances, including 2 on my 12th birthday last week, and started back to school the next day!  I was sad when the show closed, but will always remember this experience.  I know I’ve made some great life-long friends, but I’m also happy to come back to my Town family.

Stepping in Time at Town

Guest blog by Christy Shealy Mills

I only intended to do the one show — Annie — in hopes of enabling my twenty-something- year-old son to meet new age appropriate friends. While his position as dance instructor/Tumblebus teacher had provided a multitude of new acquaintances, most of them were under the age of five.

I was delighted to make it into the ensemble, along with aforementioned son, as well as 12-year-old daughter, after the nerve-wracking audition with a theatre full of hopefuls of all ages. That spark set off a wildfire and we have been constantly making that one hour drive since walking into that sea full of theatrical strangers, many who have since become great friends.

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Christy Shealy Mills as the Birdwoman poses with Agnes Babb. Photo courtesy of Mills.

I have watched with great and ever-growing admiration as one of those friends worked her magic on many cast mates during rehearsals for the ten musicals I have taken part in alongside her. Truth be told, at first it was with just a tinge of uppity-ness when I learned that SHE was the dance captain. I wondered what made her so special. It didn’t take long to figure it out. I have seen other new-to-Town Theatre dancers (especially dance teachers, who are used to being in charge) exhibit the same misguided attitude, although not outright and openly. One has to be tuned in to notice it.

As a dance teacher, I know how hard it is to correct a student without squashing their confidence or causing a bit of defensiveness. It takes just the right amount of gentleness combined with firmness, which is why Ag is the perfect dance captain.

Agnes Babb has exactly that right amount. She is the epitome of grace and tact, which she puts to good use when assisting actors, many with fragile egos. I have often observed how she says “hey, can we go over this step?” (yes, to me from time to time), when she really means “hey, you are doing this step wrong.”

Agnes would never utter those words, or anything that could be offensive, even if true, to a cast member. She accomplishes what needs to be accomplished and always leaves the subjects feeling more confident and certainly appearing more polished. Of course, I wasn’t there for the first 60-something shows she did at Town, so this ability to “fix” without offending could be a learned trait, but I believe it is an innate quality. Even when calling us to review before going onstage, it is never with an air of bossiness, which folks in any degree of leadership positions tend to possess.

To my way of thinking, a dance captain is like a drum major in a marching band. The job is to keep the morale high, keep them instep and often to run interference. Agnes does all this as if by second nature. She is one of the many reasons I think so highly of Town Theatre. Agnes Babb is just as gracious offstage as she is graceful onstage. I am thankful to Ag for helping us to always “Step in Time.”