Would Emily Brooks be up for dyeing her hair bright red?
That’s not a question a person gets asked every day, but when it involves starring in a production of her favorite novel series, “Anne of Green Gables,” it was a no-brainer for Brooks. Simply put, she was all in.
The 17-year-old senior homeschool student is thoroughly enjoying singing, dancing and acting through the lead role of Anne in SecondStory Repertory’s production, which began its run late last month and will hit the stage Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 18 with a matinee on Nov. 19. See secondstoryrep.org for times and ticket information. The theater is located at Redmond Town Center at 7325 166th Ave. N.E. Ste. F250.
“Being red has been really fun,” said Brooks, a Redmond resident who normally sports light brown locks. “It’s been a lot of fun to meet the community and be a part of it,” she added about the thriving local theater scene.
Directed by Jessica Spencer, the L.M. Montgomery classic novel gets the musical theater treatment and tells the story of The Cuthberts, who expect to adopt a boy, but receive the wide-eyed and inquisitive Anne Shirley. She finds trouble, but the spirited and imaginative girl “works her way into the hearts of her adoptive parents as well as the residents of Prince Edward Island,” according to a SecondStory Rep release.
“Anne is a character that’s important to me. To get to play her is insane. Every day I wake up and go, ‘Oh, my goodness. It’s so exciting,’” said Brooks, whose long braided ponytails roll down her shoulders.
Brooks said Anne is challenging to master because it’s a physically demanding role. She’s often moving about the stage and letting her vocals soar throughout the theater. During her two weeks at the Boston Conservatory’s Musical Theatre Dance Intensive over the summer, she learned vocal and acting techniques that have paid dividends for her on stage.
It’s also a complicated, multi-leveled role and Brooks even sees herself in Anne, who is exciting, driven, ambitious, quirky and passionate.
“She cares about people and sacrifices for others she loves,” said Brooks, noting that there’s a depth to the production that the cast strives to nail down in rehearsals. Come showtime, they also have to know “how to react to the audience reacting.”
Spencer is equally elated about being a part of the production.
“I love orphan stories! There’s something about seeing a young person decide to be a resilient survivor and NOT the victim of life’s circumstances that challenges us all to focus on celebrating gratitude and the small beauties in our day-to-day life,” Spencer said.
Brooks moved to Redmond from Atlanta, Georgia, with her family six years ago when her dad took a job at Microsoft. Her foray into the theater happened at age 8 in “The Homecoming” and she honed her skills with the Lionheart Theatre Company in Norcross, Georgia.
“I knew that it was something I really loved to do,” said Brooks, who plans to continue her acting and musical theater crafts in college.
“Anne of Green Gables” is Brooks’ debut production with SecondStory Rep, but she’s not a newcomer to area stages. She’s performed in a host of productions at Studio East in Kirkland and at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.
Mary Ann Brooks, Emily’s mom, said she’s surprised at how much work it takes to play the role of Anne.
“It’s high speed, high steam,” she said. “It’s been an absolute thrill for her. It’s fun to be able to dive into such an exciting part.”
SecondStory Rep Executive Director Mark Chenovick admires Brooks’ talent, professionalism and work ethic.
“We are so fortunate to live and work in an area with such amazing talent,” he said. “SSR strives to be a theater in which young, local talent can take steps towards a larger career on the stage.”