BWW Interviews: THE MIRACLE WORKER Cast and Crew Take On The Friday Five


Inspired by's Friday Six, welcome to's latest installment of The Friday Five: five questions designed to help you learn more about the talented people you'll find onstage throughout the Volunteer state.

Today, the spotlight falls upon the cast and crew of Lakewood Theatre's The Miracle Worker-director Heather Alexander, producer John Carpenter and actresses Amanda Smith (who plays Annie Sullivan) and Zoe Garner (Helen Keller)-which opens this weekend at the theater's venue in Old Hickory, and continues through November 4. Tickets can be obtained at, or a limited number of reservations are available through the Lakewood box office at (615) 847-0934. 

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater?

Heather Alexander: In elementary school, where my girls' basketball team had to do a skit involving gymnastic, aerobics and dance to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and selected music from Hee Haw. Yes, it was just as god-awfully conceived as it sounds. Oh, and did I mention that we had to wear bright red basketball shorts and Mork suspenders? Despite that, I discovered I loved being onstage, no matter how goofy or corny it might happen to be. The sound of applause probably didn't hurt either. 

John Carpenter: My first "live experience" in theatre was at eight years old, when I did an Elvis impersonation (complete with 1970s Elvis jumpsuit) at a local kids talent show. I placed second-and I was hooked from that moment on.

Amanda Smith: My father took my sister, her best friend, and me to Rent at the Tidy Regional Theatre when I was in seventh grade. I almost didn't go, but thankfully, my dad convinced me to and I'm very glad he did.

Zoe Garner: My first show was Oliver! at Circle Players, which was directed by Clay Hillwig. Many of the kids in that show and I grew up into theater together and to this day we are still friends. The last time we performed together, we had all worked hard in 13 the Musical together at Circle.

What is your favorite pre-show ritual?

Heather Alexander: Getting in full hair, makeup and costume right before I leave work (for Hell Week & Friday shows) and watching the confused stares of all my attorneys as I finish the day in character. It's hilarious and always puts me in the best mood. The best times were when I played Mama Ray in Dearly Departed and left work as a 65-year old woman with wrinkles and grey wig, and Popeye in Miss Firecracker with big weird glasses and really wild hair.

John Carpenter: I have two pre-show rituals. First, I create a music playlist for each show that I do (both as an actor and a director) and I try to find a quiet place an hour or so before the show to listen to the one or two songs that identify my character or the theme of the show I am directing. Second, I like to get to the theatre an hour or two before everyone else and just sit in the audience chairs with pre-show lights on. It gives me a chance to relax and feel the moment.

Amanda Smith: I like to (attempt to) calm myself down by shaking my hands around frantically and thinking about my Dad, who is my favorite actor, and how amazing he always looks onstage, no matter what happens.

Zoe Garner: Many times before a show I will find myself getting nervous. I'm a little bit of a hands-on person and began a habit of shaking my hands like wringing out an old dishrag. This is much better than my old habit of quoting Sharpei from High School Musical-glad I broke that one.

What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment?

Heather Alexander: During rehearsals for Nightwatch at Encore Theatre, I lost a bit of weight. I didn't realize how much until one night while onstage being frantic in a velvet nightgown, I feel my underwear start to slip off my hips. There was no way to gracefully get it back into place, and no place onstage to step behind and manuever it. I know they're going to fall down completely in a second, so I step behind a couch where they'll be obscured from the audience and let them fall. Black underwear, black stage, couch is hiding them, so no problem, right? Wrong. The actress playing the maid enters a few seconds later, notices them behind the couch, and not only picks them up, but holds them high inspecting them for the entire audience to see. I thought I was going to have a stroke until I realized no one would know they were mine. Then she shrugged, put them in her pocket, and later polished a table with them.  Ever since then I've worn full bodyshapers while onstage. 

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.

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