Chelsea Thayer as Essie Carmichael


I saw my first play at Parkway Playhouse sometime in the late 80’s, Annie Get Your Gun. My grandparents brought me because they thought I might enjoy a musical. Boy, were they right! That was it for me. I was hopelessly devoted to theatre. My first paid acting role was with Parkway in 2001 in Godspell. It was that moment I realized I really could be paid for acting…and I never wanted to do anything else. Having recently moved my family back to the mountains after 12 years away, I knew it was only a matter of time before Parkway Playhouse came back into my life. Even so, auditioning this year was a tough decision for me as a mother of three young kiddos. I have taken the last 8 years off from acting professionally to focus on my lead role of “Mommy.” With the support of my amazing husband, Bryan and my family, I decided the time had come to return to the stage. I have missed acting but I didn’t realized how much until rehearsals began for You Can’t Take it with You. It was like waking up a vital part of me that had been resting, waiting, but not gone. Never gone. Theatre has remained my passion even though my audience has changed and now consists of three small humans. Three small humans who, I should add, are not always appreciative of my dialect work, opera training, and melodramatic re-enactments at the breakfast table. Children are the toughest critics, folks.

Long-time patrons at Parkway Playhouse may remember me as “Peggy” in Godspell, “Elaine” in Arsenic and Old Lace, and Mary Anne/Mary Lou in Exact Center of the Universe.
In addition to returning to the stage at Parkway I have recently returned as the Director of Education for Parkway Playhouse Junior. Since school has just begun, my days consist of chauffeuring children to and fro, working at the playhouse, and reading lots of plays. Songs and choreography moves come to me at odd moments so if you see me doing a jazz square on the dairy aisle at Ingles just know I am working and have not lost my mind…yet.

I could not have chosen a better show to back my return to the stage. The cast is professional in their demeanor, and impressive in their interpretations of the characters. My favorite moments have been watching others find moments and bits with their character. Exercising my acting muscles after a long time has been exciting. I’ve had many “Aha!” moments and of course, the greatest realization, I can still do this. The high-caliber of this show is due, in large part, to the high standards of our director, Chris Hart. He is an actor’s dream to work with. Attentive to detail, true to the heart of the story, and always finding ways to pull the very best from his actors. A rare combination.

Come and see for yourself. I could offer audiences promises of laughter (which there will be), perhaps some tears (I know I’ve shed a few), or a guarantee of a good time (that is a given.) But instead I will say this, You Can’t Take it with You is one of the greatest American plays, and you should know why. I can’t think of a better reason to make a reservation today…we will be waiting.

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Parkway Playhouse, located in the Appalachian town of Burnsville, NC, is a haven of theatre talent. While people come to the mountains to get away, Parkway Playhouse is a natural gathering place to connect. Likewise, we are an extension of traditional mountain talents: singing, dancing, and, foremost, storytelling. By giving rise to energetic new voices and through a wide variety of plays and musicals, we invite our audience into experiences that are thought-provoking, adventurous, and entertaining. Together we reimagine the world in every live performance, creating dynamic conversations that last far beyond the curtain call. This blog is will feature stories, helpful information, insight and features about the performances.

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