Actor Spotlight: Hunter Taylor

Hunter Taylor, our Education Coordinator, makes a splashy return to the stage as Elton John in Amélie!


PPH: Tell us a bit about yourself! You can talk about your education, history with Parkway Playhouse or acting in general, and anything else you’d like to mention.

Hunter: This is my third season that I have spent with Parkway. I spent one summer as an actor in a few shows, the second as an intern and an actor, and now I am on staff as the Educational Coordinator and Social Media Manager. I graduated from Western Carolina University with. BFA in Musical Theatre, and I am so glad to be here in Burnsville doing what I love full time.


PPH: Do you have a favorite scene in this show? Why is it your favorite?

Hunter: There are many wonderful scenes in this show, but I really love the opening sequence. It covers a ton of material very quickly, and the staging and choreography does such a great job in telling the story. It is really beautiful to watch and to be a part of. The music in the opening sequence really sets up some major themes for the rest of the show, which I think is pretty cool. I’m a big theatre nerd, so connecting themes and leitmotifs is super exciting for me.


PPH: What is your favorite musical number in the production?

Hunter: My favorite musical number would have to be, selfishly, “Goodbye Amélie”, which I sing as Elton John. It’s a real blast to sing, and I get to be Elton John….which is pretty awesome. I also love to hear Christine sing “Times are Hard for Dreamers” and ‘The Girl with the Glass”. Those are two excruciatingly beautiful songs and moments in the show.

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PPH: Are you acting with any old pals (or new acquaintances)? How has that been?

Hunter: I am acting with several friends! I know most of the cast, either from past Parkway productions, or through school. Annelise Henry is one of my best friends, so it’s great to be in another show with her again. I also know Dylan Renken from college, and having him in the show has been a wonderful experience. Working with my Parkway friends is always a pleasure. I have loved seeing Christine, Roberta, Collin, William, and Tabitha, all of which I have previously worked with, and Shelby who is one of my college interns. I am also so proud of Kai’ana Stella for the amazing job she’s doing in the show-she was in one of my Conservatory classes this past year. I have been involved in every production Dwight has directed here, so it is a real honor to be in another one of his shows. I have worked with Sarah Fowler, our music director, more times than I can count. She has really heard me at my highest highs and at my lowest lows. I have also loved getting to know Jane, Shari (the outstanding choreographer), and the rest of the crew and band-they all work so hard, and do such a wonderful job. I have to give a special shoutout to all of the interns and apprentices working on this production-it could not happen without them! Also, a massive shoutout to Kristen Livengood who has been my guardian angel this entire year.


PPH: What makes this particular experience unique?

Hunter: This particular experience has been very unique for me. This show is unique in itself, which makes for a very interesting rehearsal process. I also have not seen the film it is based on, nor any footage from any of the stage productions, so this is really the first time I went into a process completely blind. It is kind of freeing not know how others have played the roles I am playing. I really feel like I have made them my own.

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Catch Hunter, and the rest of the talented cast and crew, in Amélie, which runs July 27th-August 10th. Tickets are available through our box office (828-682-4285) which is open Thursdays-Saturdays, or online here!

Actor Spotlight: Shelby Tyler

Shelby Tyler makes her Parkway Playhouse acting debut in Amélie, one of her all time favorite musicals!

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PPH: You have worked at Parkway Playhouse for several shows at this point, but for those who might not know you, tell us a bit about yourself!

Shelby: I am a rising sophomore at East Tennessee State University, studying for a BA in Theatre and a minor in Communications. I’ve been doing theatre for ten years now and have been involved with over 30+ shows in those years. I’m also a college intern here at Parkway Playhouse! I wouldn’t be here without the support from my friends and family, and I am incredibly grateful for them. Here are some fun facts: I love lasagna, blue is my favorite color, and I’ve made a viral video on Youtube!


PPH: What has been your favorite part of rehearsal?

Shelby: My favorite part of the rehearsal process has been being able to watch the show slowly become something magical. With every prop or set piece added, and every new song to get choreographed, it’s just all come together so well. We’re in tech week now as I’m writing this and we heard the music with the full band for the first time a couple days ago; it was absolutely amazing. Everyone has been so phenomenal.

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PPH: What makes this particular experience unique?

Shelby: Amélie is actually my favorite musical, so being in the show is incredibly special to me. I’ve been able to see my castmates learn and fall in love with the show, and it means a lot to me. It just makes me ridiculously happy to come into Parkway and be able to tell this story. I’m really grateful for this experience, and thankful for everyone involved who has made the show come together. I cannot wait for people to actually see it and be moved in the same way I am every night!


PPH: You are one of our college interns this season. How has it been juggling acting in this show, stage managing our summer camp, and working the intern gig five days a week?

Shelby: It’s definitely been a bit overwhelming, but it’s been so much fun! You have to learn how to switch gears pretty quickly, especially going from stage managing, to interning, then to acting. I’m exhausted, but in a fulfilling way. I’ll sometimes be here from 9am to 10pm with lunch and dinner breaks, and I honestly love it. I love the people I work with and the things I get to create while I’m here. This is what I want to do with my life! Being able to just completely surround myself with theatre is absolutely insane. (Quick shoutout to my fellow 2019 interns who are working extremely hard: I love you! We’ve got this!)

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Catch Shelby, and the rest of the talented cast and crew, in Amélie, which runs from July 27th-August 10th. Tickets are available through our box office (828-682-4285) which is open Thursdays-Saturdays, or online here!

Actor Spotlight – Kaitlin Rose Jencks

We are pleased to welcome Kaitlin Jencks back to the Parkway Playhouse stage. This time around, she can be seen playing a plethora of characters in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. 

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PPH: Tell us a bit about yourself! What are some of your favorite theatrical experiences in this area? 
Kaitlin: I have been acting in and around Asheville since I was eight years old. This is my second show with Parkway. I did Oliver here last summer and am very excited to be back! I am a former student of Western Carolina University and am currently going to Berklee College of Music. I have been a fan of Gentleman’s Guide for a while and am psyched to be a part of it.


PPH: Do you have a favorite scene in this show? Why is it your favorite? (without spoilers)

Kaitlin: I don’t know if I could pick a favorite scene but “Why Are All The D’ysquiths Dying” (Is that a spoiler? Can a song title be a spoiler? Oh no!)  is way up there. I love the sarcasm and satire of it. This show is so clever; it has all of these wonderfully silly songs that layer over the sharp social commentary. For numbers that I am not in, I think “I’ve Decided to Marry You” is my favorite. It is just so fun!


PPH: What is your favorite prop? 
Kaitlin: It is a tie between my stethoscope as Dr. Pettibone and my hand warmer/muff as Miss Barley…. although the black and white food in the dining room scene is great!
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PPH: Are you having fun with accents? Any tongue twisters in there for you?
Kaitlin: I am a huge accent nerd so I really enjoy getting to do several for the show. Our director brought in a friend of hers who is from the UK to give us a hand with our accents, which was wonderful. The trickiest thing accent wise is keeping them consistent while spitting out all of the very wordy musical numbers like the “Prologue” and “I don’t Understand the Poor.”
PPH: Tell us a little bit about your character? What about your character is the least like you?
Kaitlin: I play something like ten characters throughout the show. They all have their own quirks. Miss Evangeline Barley is very fun. She is a “Floradora Girl” which were the showgirls of the time (very scandalous for the early 1900s, ankles might have been seen!). We are both performers and a bit sarcastic but I am afraid that is where the similarities end.
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Be sure to catch Kaitlin in the final two performances of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder! You can purchase tickets through our box office (828-682-4285) from 1-5pm Thursdays-Saturdays, or online here!

It Takes a Village – Tech at Parkway Playhouse

We are privileged to have four amazing interns working with us this summer. Their duties range from making costume pieces and painting sets, to stage managing and performing in several of our shows this season! Mara Flynn, Kaitlynn Newcomb, Sarah Rasey, and Shelby Tyler have been a major part of what has made our 2019 season so successful! 

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PPH: What has been a memorable experiences working with props so far?

Mara: I really enjoyed making the fake fish for the dinner scene in Gentlemen’s Guide. I make it completely out of newspaper and duct tape. I drew out a general outline of a fish and then cut it out through two pieces of paper and then stuffed it and taped it with newspaper while covering it in duct tape. 

Kaitlynn: Making the pig ears, tails, and noses was definitely interesting. They were the first props/costume accessories that we had to figure out how to make. I was in charge of making the ears, and a lot of pinterest looking took place. After around three attempts I finally got a good pair of ears made that looked great from the stage. I felt very accomplished with that. 

Sarah: I really enjoyed making the saw for Gentleman’s Guide from scratch. I rarely have an opportunity to make a prop from start to finish, so it was really refreshing.

Shelby: Fitting a color scheme for Gentleman’s Guide has been a good challenge, and definitely fun to try out. We’ve done a lot of paper mache and used a lot of duct tape to keep to a grayscale scheme. I’ve picked up a lot of new tricks that way.


PPH: What has been the most challenging aspect of making or pulling props for the shows you have worked on?

Mara: For something like Gentlemen’s Guide you have to make sure it looks age appropriate so everything has to look like it’s from the early 20th century. There are a lot of props that have to either be adjusted to look the time period, or just be completely made from scratch. 

Kaitlynn: I think the most challenging was painting the props and such to match the color scheme for the show. It’s all based on old political cartoons so it follows the black, white, and grey color scheme  of those. We had to get creative on how to mix those colors and such for all the props used. 

Sarah: The director of Dixie Swim had a very particular vision for her props, so things as small as the glasses they were drinking out of went through many drafts before we were able to finalize them.

Shelby: Any time there is any really detailed lettering or art of any kind, I get really nervous and shaky because I’m not very good at drawing or that sort. Things like our beach signs for Dixie or just tracing for Gentleman’s Guide. We have done a LOT of it, so I’ve gotten a lot better, but still. It always makes me nervous.


PPH: You worked on the set for The Dixie Swim Club earlier this season. Describe your experience transforming the Parkway Playhouse stage into an Outer Banks beach house!

Mara: Myself and another intern Sarah put up a lot of the walls. We started with one wall and worked our way around. Each having to be flush with another, and it became difficult when the walls had to branch out in a “V” formation from upstage to downstage. 

Kaitlynn: I kept forgetting how much actually goes into decorating a real house to make it home-like. Pulling all the set dressing and wall decorations definitely got creative to make sure the beach vibe was still apparent in the house. 

Sarah: I spent 2 straight hours one day painting the floor as the others were working on other projects. Despite it being tedious, it was a great workout!

Shelby: Set dressing was a time and a half to pull together; decorating a set is already pretty difficult and when an entire beach theme, we definitely had to get creative, designing and painting some of the signs ourselves. It was a fun challenge, and I think it paid off really well.


PPH: The set design for A Gentleman’s Guide for Love and Murder is very interesting and detailed! What are some aspects that you enjoyed working on?

Mara: There was a lot of painting involved in this show, especially the color gray, and I really enjoy painting so I had a good time doing that!

Kaitlynn: Tracing the periaktos was interesting for sure. They’re so tall that making sure that everything is sized correctly took a hot second. We went through a lot of black markers.

Sarah: Working with Steve on the giant sketches was a lot of fun. I really enjoy visual art when I’m not on stage, so it was very cathartic.

Shelby: The periaktos, no doubt. You really start to think outside of the box when you have a limited amount of space to project tracings into a 10 foot tall periaktoi. They’ve turned out so well, big thanks to Steve and his crew of artists who turned our tracings into something so pretty.


PPH: Our touring show – The Three Little Pigs- has to have a very specific set since we travel all around the tri-county area. What are some details and challenges that came up while preparing that show?

Mara: I enjoyed painting the houses! Especially the inside of the brick house with making the stew pot and the fire. 

Kaitlynn: Making sure that the houses fell quickly when the Big Bad Wolf “blows down the house” took a second to figure out, but it worked out!

Sarah: I really enjoyed the detail work on the houses, especially the stew pot in the brick house. It looks super cartoon-ey, like it’s coming out of a story book. I always get a kick out of watching the houses come down every show, it’s truly different every time.

Shelby: I think just figuring out how exactly to paint them was a bit difficult with the fabric being paint resistant. We ended up figuring it out though, and they look really nice!


All of the interns have had experience creating and maintaining the costumes for our MainStage season.


PPH: You all built the costumes for The Three Little Pigs pretty much from scratch. Tell us about that experience?

Mara: I really enjoyed making the owl costumes, and making sure the fabric was put on in a specific pattern to make them look like feathers.

Kaitlynn: We didn’t have to build much beyond accessories since the theatre basically had everything we needed for base costumes. It came together pretty quickly.

Sarah: We tried to go for a more patchwork style, pulling inspiration from iconic characters we all knew. For example, Mother Pig’s costume is heavily inspired by Mrs. Turnblad from Hairspray.

Shelby: It was pretty simple, just making the accessories for the pig tails, nose, and ears. We used a lot of hot glue, elastic, and felt. We also got to make the wolf’s hat, which was based on a pair of shoes we already had from 3 Bears, so we really just used the same fur.


PPH: How has working on costume crew stretched your knowledge of how a show runs? 

Mara: This is my first time on a costumes crew and it has been such a learning experience, especially in terms of quick changes. Strother has a total of 12 costume changes, not all of them have to be done quickly but over half need to be changed rapidly from one to the other. There is one change where myself and the other costume crew member Tegan have to get him out of one costumes while he is barefoot and put a dress on over a suit and add his shoes on him all in under two minutes. So, then he has to run off stage and shed one costume and go on immediately after and be the character under the dress. That has been our biggest challenge. But, it’s been a lot of fun!


PPH: People may not know how much preparation is needed for a show. Describe how much prep work went into The Dixie Swim Club each night!

Shelby: A lot of prep work for Dixie really was just making sure that all of the food was in the right containers,certain glasses had the right beverage, and keeping it all in an orderly fashion so set changes didn’t run long. We had around 15 glasses backstage that were used constantly throughout the show, and we needed to be really aware of what needed to be in what drink and where it needed to be placed. 

Kaitlynn: A lot went into preparing the drinks and food that got eaten on stage. We also had to make sure that all the cups used throughout the show got cleaned every night including the coffee pot. Just make sure everything was clean and fresh for the actors every night. 

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You can catch all of their hard work anytime you see one of our productions this season. Even if you don’t physically see them working-they have each put hours and hours of work into making our shows as wonderful as they are!

Actor Spotlight: Strother Stingley

Parkway favorite Strother Stingley joins us one again-this time, portraying the entire D’Ysquith family in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

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PPH: Even though most people familiar with Parkway Playhouse are major fans of yours, tell us a bit about yourself! 

Strother: My first show at PP was The Music Man as Marcellus Washburn to my dear Bradshaw Call’s Henry Hill. I played Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof, Maraczech in She Loves Me, Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, Orin the Dentist (et al) in Little Shop of Horrors, Clown 1 in The 39 Steps, Max Halliday in Dial M for Murder, and was proud to be one of the three actors in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)[revised].


PPH: Do you have a favorite scene in this show? Why is it your favorite? 

Strother: No. Just any time when I get to watch my castmates kill it (lol it’s a joke about “killing” meaning two things but also this show has murder in the title lololol)


PPH: What is your favorite prop? 

Strother: The 8th Earl’s prized gun? Mostly because I can’t break it.

Strother Gun

PPH: Are you having fun with accents? Any tongue twisters in there for you?

Strother: Maybe a little bit of fun (cackles maniacally because you think 9 characters is a lot to have but that’s just the tip of the iceberg)


PPH: What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

Strother: Everyone has always given their best from day one.


PPH: What is your favorite musical number in the production?

Strother: Would you pick a favorite child? Not in public, you wouldn’t. *tsk tsk tsk*

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PPH: What do you like about acting at Parkway Playhouse? 

Strother: The old and the new, my history with it and my future with it (casting choices dependant), and also the way PP is coming back strong. A lot of good folks have been working their hinders off to make that happen.


PPH: Are you acting with any old pals (or new acquaintances)? How has that been?

Strother: I love working with those I know and I love working with those I’m getting to know.


PPH: Tell us a little bit about your character? What about your character is the least like you?

Strother: No. Come see the show. I play 9 charters. NINE. My thumbs would run out of ink if I tried to describe them all.

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PPH: What makes this particular experience unique?

Strother: Every time you get a new copy of a script it’s a unique experience. What makes this a GREAT experience is the people involved (in all aspects) and the fantastic words and noyes we’re lucky enough to get to bring to life here and now.


Come see Strother and his nine hilarious characters in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. There are two performances left for this marvelous show: July 12th and 13th at 7:30pm. Tickets are available here!

Actor Spotlight: Tasha Pepi

Tasha Pepi leaves a lasting impression as Miss Shingle and others in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

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PPH: This is your first show here at Parkway, so tell those who might not know you a bit about yourself!

Tasha: This is my first time working with Parkway Playhouse, but I’m not a stranger to local stages. I have performed at Flat Rock, Hendersonville Community Theater, The Center for Arts and Inspiration, Asheville Community Theater, and the Magnetic Theater. I have had Theater in my life since I was a child, and it’s my happy place.  My favorite roles include Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, Cinderella in Into the Woods, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Joanne in Godspell, and Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.


PPH: Are you acting with any old pals (or new acquaintances)? How has that been?  

Tasha: I knew Strother, Matthew, and Rob before this show, but had not had the privilege of working with them.  It’s exciting to work with such a talented cast!


PPH: Tell us a little bit about your character! What about your character is the least like you?  

Tasha: Miss Shingle is a very confident, loving yet stern woman.  She cares for Monty Navarro, and feel protective of him and his mother.  She is a fun role to play, and a fun challenge as she is not the typical soprano ingenue I often play.  My favorite line is, “Look at himself all grown up and handsome as the devil”

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PPH: When you’re not busy in the world of theatre, what does your life look like? 

Tasha: In my “other life” I work as a realtor, a mom to three boys, and spend a lot of time volunteering teaching youth acting, drama clubs at a local school, and directing youth musicals.  I tend to do lots of shows, and am currently working on 4 others, and find it very fulfilling.


Be sure to catch Tasha in the final weekend of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which has final performances on July 12th and 13th at 7:30pm. For tickets, you can visit our box office (828-68204285) from 1-5pm Thursdays-Saturdays, or you can purchase them online here!

Actor Spotlight: David Leader

David Leader is exceptionally hilarious, playing numerous roles in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder!

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PPH: This is your first show with us! What drew you to Parkway Playhouse or to this particular show?

David: Being relatively new to the area, my wife and I have discovered Burnsville to be a great town filled with terrific people, and wonderful things to see, eat and do. The Parkway Playhouse is part of this: it has an amazing legacy, and the idea of doing summer theater in a barn-like structure brings me back to fun times as a kid watching those black and white Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musicals (O.K., I am old), where the line, “Let’s put on a show!” seemed to tackle any specific problems that were occurring. This particular show is witty and full of gorgeous music. It speaks to me of Gilbert and Sullivan and the dry English humor that always makes me groan and guffaw. It is just a trifle naughty, especially for the early 1900’s, when it is set. I am enjoying the challenges (more than I could have possibly imagined, given my relative newbie nature in the theatre), as I continue to work to stay in tune, stay in rhythm, be where I need to be when I need to be there, move when I need to move, stay still when I need to be still, and say the correct lines. The Directors are the best!

PPH: Tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from? What’s your theatre background? What do you do in your “other life” or is it just acting acting acting for you?

David: I am from the Chicago area, where I spent my first 60 years. After escaping the Midwest, we moved to the mountains and have been enthralled ever since. In my life before retirement, I was a board-certified adult psychiatrist and a medical director of a large integrated healthcare delivery system (like Mission, but on massive steroids). This year, I have been married 40 years, and have two amazing sons aged 28 and 27. One son spent only five hours visiting us here for the first time before declaring that he will move here sometime soon! I have sung in choruses from youth into college, and stopped for medical training. I picked up singing again after moving here and have been in the Asheville Choral Society and the choir at our house of worship. I had one previous stint in theater at NC Stage in 2017 in the chorus for All is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. I recently was part of the chorus at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville performing the Defiant Requiem.

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PPH: What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

David: My absolutely favorite part is getting to listen to all of the others sing. They are so perfect in their roles and sound just as terrific as the original Broadway cast. It has been like a free ticket to experience these wonderful musicians and their wonderful music over and over. My only regret is that I cannot be in the audience watching it and also being on stage. I thoroughly recommend that you come and hear this incredible music (and see some great acting and movement additionally).

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Be sure to catch David in the final weekend of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which has final performances on July 12th and 13th at 7:30pm. For tickets, you can visit our box office (828-68204285) from 1-5pm Thursdays-Saturdays, or you can purchase them online here!