Kathryn Brunner’s debut onstage was at age 6 in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Since that first time onstage in her hometown of Willow Grove, Pa., she’s been in the same show four times.
“I guess I just can’t get enough of it,” Brunner said. “‘The Sound of Music’ is my favorite show.”
The sophomore musical theater major said she fell in love with being onstage and being a part of the community of each cast. She said she hasn’t stopped auditioning for roles since she first realized her passion.
Brunner recently started her professional acting career at Old City’s Arden Theatre Company. As a cast member of the production “Parade,” which ran from Sept. 26 to Nov. 3, she broke into the local acting scene.
The show is from the script written by Alfred Uhry, the score written by Jason Robert Brown and co-conceived by Harold Prince. Set in 1913 Atlanta, the play describes the life of a man charged with murdering a young girl.
Head of Musical Theatre Peter Reynolds, who has worked with Brunner as a director, recommended her when Arden had yet to cast Brunner’s future role in “Parade.”
“They told me what the role was like and I suggested that [Brunner] audition, amongst some other names,” Reynolds said. “She auditioned and was cast. I feel that for a young actor it is important to be in school to complete the degree and train. However, if an amazing opportunity comes up like this, I do what I can to facilitate that.”
Reynolds described Brunner as a capable actress and a pleasure to work with. Not only is her onstage experience valuable, he said, but her work ethic is one of her greatest assets.
“She’s engaged, so you don’t have to do a lot of prodding,” Reynolds said. “She’s easy to work with, she listens and takes direction well.”
Brunner’s experience at Arden Theatre included “a Philly dream cast of actors,” said Alec E. Ferrell, the show’s stage manager. Actors Jennie Eisenhower and Ben Dibble were involved in the production. A review of the show written by Toby Zinman on Philly.com says the cast of “Parade” showcased impressive vocals and musical numbers.
Ferrell said the environment could have been intimidating for an actor who is new to the scene.
“The show is by no means easy – it’s a big show,” Ferrell said. “It’s a very difficult score. But [Brunner] kind of rolled with the punches. She fit in with the group incredibly well and she held her own.”
Before her professional experience at Arden, Brunner was cast as the female lead in Temple’s fall 2012 production of “Spring Awakening” as a freshman. Brunner said participating in the show, was a great learning experience, in part because of the content of the show.
“‘Spring Awakening’ helped me come into Temple and the program a lot more confidently than I probably would have, just because I was with a cast that supported me,” Brunner said. “I formed such close bonds with those people because I was with them all the time. With anything, when you have people you can rely on, that’s really going to help you. It was also different than anything I had ever done, so that was a wonderful experience.”
Reynolds, who served as the director of “Spring Awakening,” said he double-cast the show, meaning Brunner was the female lead for only half of the performances. However, he said it is unusual for a freshman to be cast as a lead in any capacity.
“Talent is talent,” Reynolds said. “And then there’s hard work and a strong work ethic, and [Brunner] has both. Also, in musical theater we have a term called the ‘triple threat’: singer, dancer, actor. But [Brunner] is really a quadruple threat, because she is also a very pretty young woman and her look fits her type. The voice fits and her acting fits what she looks like.”
Brunner said she does receive many stereotypically innocent roles, but she embraces it regardless.
“I think that’s okay with me right now because I am younger,” Brunner said. “I think I do come across as innocent, so I’m playing up the fact that I’m young and am able to play those roles right now.”
While the roles she plays may be young and naïve, Ferrell said Brunner’s persona as a professional actor is the opposite.
“You have a little bit of prejudice when you have a younger actor, especially one in college, but from day one, she really came at everything with professionalism and an open mind,” Ferrell said. “She knows her place in a show and really works that to her advantage and does it well.”
Emily Rolen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.