It was the day before the big performance and Karlin Stanley sat in her mother’s salon, nervous. She waited anxiously, chin in hand, looking off into space. Her mind was racing.
Karlin, 18, a rising senior at Garner Magnet High, would perform in the show Shrek Jr., and play the role of one of the three little pigs.
Each summer, The Towne Players partners with the town of Garner to provide a month-long summer theater camp for kids ages 5-11. The children learn theater basics, which they then apply to the summer show. Teens from 12-18 years old audition for a role in the show. Because Karlin is 18, she auditioned.
The day before the play is like any other. She’s performed in about eight of them, but butterflies still fill her stomach before each performance.
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“It’s like this feeling of excitement and energy,” Karlin said. “Like I’m ready for the show and the performance. I’ve loved it ever since my first show. I get nervous before the performance but once I get on stage, it goes away.”
Her mother Lisa Stanley, a hair stylist, said inside Karlin’s room hangs a white board. And at the beginning of each summer Karlin counts down the number of days before rehearsals start for the play. Rehearsals start in July and lead up to the performance in August.
“This is the highlight of her summer,” Lisa Stanley said.
Karlin was born with a brain hemorrhage, and a heart defect, called Pulmonary Artresia. Pulmonary artresia is a form of heart disease in which the pulmonary valve does not form properly.
Being involved in the arts is the one place she feels she is on a level playing field,”
Lisa Stanley of Garner
It causes her to be short of breath easily. She can’t be outside in really hot or really cold weather.
“I can’t run as fast as people because if I do, I get really hot, so I have to cool off,” Karlin said.
She said it sometimes feels like she’s been running for hours. “Like I’ve done too much,” Karlin said.
“She never really has had the stamina other children have had,” Lisa Stanley added. “Her heart works really, really hard.”
She will have a major heart surgery soon after the performance.
As for her brain haemorrhage, academics can be hard for Karlin. She wasn’t always easily accepted in school, her mother said.
“But she loves the stage,” Lisa Stanley said. “Being involved in the arts is the one place she feels she is on a level playing field. It’s a place she can shine and is very accepted there.”
Karlin agreed. It’s her favorite place to be. That’s why she always counts down the number of days until rehearsals. She said the Towne Players, a local theatre group, is like a family to her, and each year they get closer.
The arts are for everybody and if there are kids who feel like maybe they don’t fit in everywhere, this gives them a safe place that they do fit in,”
Beth Honneycutt, Towne Players
And that is how Beth Honeycutt, co-founder of Towne Players, wanted it to be. Everyone who auditions gets a role in the play. It’s OK to be different if you are, Honeycutt said.
“The arts are for everybody and if there are kids who feel like maybe they don’t fit in everywhere, this gives them a safe place that they do fit in,” Honeycutt said. “The theater family is a really strong family. They support each other. When you do theater you have to rely on the people who are around you, on stage with you and you build these relationships and this trust.”
She said many of the children who started out with small roles have gone on to have leads in other plays.
The Honeycutts have been hosting the summer camp and play since 2007. It’s been a family affair. With Scott Honeycutt co-directing it, their kids Arlie and Jackson also participate in the production.
“It’s my passion,” Beth Honeycutt said. “I love working with the adults, but the teens and the kids, that’s my passion.”
She said young people like Karlin are her inspiration, because it matters so much to them.
A special one
During rehearsals, with a snout on her nose, pig ears on top of her head, dressed in white overalls, a red bow tie and a striped pink shirt, Karlin would smile whenever she got on stage.
Lisa Stanley said the play is something she and her husband look forward to also. She said her husband and Karlin’s father wouldn’t dare be caught at a play. But if it’s for his daughter, he wouldn’t miss it. Karlin’s grandmother, cousins, friends from the salon and siblings will be there to support her.
“I tear up every time,” Lisa Stanley said. “As a parent it makes you feel good when your kids are doing something that makes them happy.”
This play was particularly special for Karlin. It is one of her first speaking roles. As one of the three little pigs, she had to work on her German accent.
‘“Maybe you could talk to him,’” she recited, with a slight German accent.
Karlin laughed. “That’s a really bad German accent,” she said.
When asked if she was ready for it to be the day of the performance, Karlin said she didn’t know how to answer.
“Part of me does, but not really,” Karlin said. “Because I’m not ready for it to end.”