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?

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

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. 

John Carpenter: As an actor, about 10 years ago, I did Greater Tuna and two days before opening night I contracted the worst case of pink eye I have ever had. Eye pain so bad that the stage lights felt as if my eyes had been placed directly on the surface of the sun. However, nothing was going to prevent me from doing this show, so I sucked it up and turned in what I still believe to be one of my greatest single night performances. As a director, my greatest show must go on moment came during a play called Mandate for Murder, a terrific show with a terrific cast. The second weekend, the cast came down with a very bad case of the flu-fever, chills, nausea-you name it they had it. The second  Saturday show featured five actors who had the flu to some degree, and one of my actresses had to leave the stage to throw up, but we did the show, and garnered great reviews that evening despite our illnesses.

Amanda Smith: The night I had an asthma attack during intermission of Free to Be...You and Me.

Zoe Garner:My most memorable "the show must go on" moment. Well, I would have to say just about the entire run of Wait Until Dark. Never before have I had to work with so many technical issues on my own. I believe I found my love of improv during that run. It was light, and then it was dark, then it was, I don't even know. There was a headless doll, a missing package, and apparently a dangerously sharp can opener.

What's your dream role?

Heather Alexander: Medea, hands down (let me make it very clear that I mean the classic Greek tragedy, not the soul-sucking Tyler Perry character).  Her all-consuming rage makes her a tantalizing role. I would love to play Blanche duBois, Meg in Crimes of the Heart, Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I'm finally getting to do Same Time, Next Year (next year, of course) with my favorite collaborator John Carpenter, which will be awesome. 

John Carpenter: As an actor, my dream roles are Seymour Krelbourne in Little Shop of Horrors, Scrooge (believe it or not I have done Christmas Carol as an actor 14 times in my career, and played every male role except Scrooge, and many years played multiple characters), and Salieri in Amadeus. As a director, my dream show is Same Time Next Year, which I might add I will finally be directing in February 2013 at Encore Theatre.

Amanda Smith: This is my dream role.

Zoe Garner: My dream role is one that I can, unfortunately never have. I have become smitten with a show that is a classic story, and it is the lead role in Jekyll and Hyde. I would give anything to stand on the stage and play the part of the good doctor, but since I am just a young girl, I am only "tilting at windmills." However I do believe I would have made a good Dr. Jekyll... or Mr. Edward Hyde.

Who's your theatrical crush?

Heather Alexander: Anyone who knows me knows my top my celebrity crushes are George Clooney, Hugh Jackman, George Clooney, Hugh Jackman and George Clooney. If I had to pick one, I'd say HughGeorge Cloojackneyman. Theatrically I have a huge gir crush on Anne Hathaway-her Selina Kyle was slinky and wily and perfect. I cannot wait to see her play Fantine!  And Meryl Streep is the gold standard to which I aspire-whatever bias there may be against older actresses in Hollywood, she has transcended it.  She gets better in every role, and just becomes more beautiful every year. 

John Carpenter: On the local level, my theatrical crushes are my cohort and the director of The Miracle Worker, Heather Alexander, She is a fantastic actress and an even better director (even though sometimes she doubts that) I enjoy doing shows with her and watching her work. I also admire Asa Ambrister, who is one of the finest creative minds I know, an exceptionally kind and caring individual, and the true definition of a professional. There are few people in theatre that I would drop everything I was doing  to help them if they asked and these two people are at the top of that short list. On the larger stage, I am a real admirer of Hugh Jackman- he is so talented, and truth be told, I am very jealous of his vocal range (and acting ability).   

Amanda Smith: Michael Holder.

Zoe Garner: Because of my age, one might think I would say some skinny jean clad boys from the latest boy bands of today, but I need no One Direction nor a Justin Bieber. I will forever love the amazing Oscar winning Collin Firth. Isn't he just a cutie?

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