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Curtain Call: Ingénue takes gap year to build acting résumé

Brooklyn Williams in a scene from Ashland High School's production of "Bright Star." Photo by Denise Barratta

Brooklyn Williams is a young but not inexperienced actor. Her professional career began five years ago when the then 12-year-old Ashland Middle School girl landed a part in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Julius Caesar.”

This summer, the 2022 Ashland High School graduate is appearing in Collaborative Theatre Project’s production of “Don Quixote,” now playing Thursdays through Sundays until July 31 in CTP’s theater at 555 Medford Center in Medford.

The 18-year-old is taking a gap year to build her acting résumé before she continues her education in pursuit of a college degree in theater.

In “Don Quixote” she plays several small parts: a Basque lady, Emerencia, a country woman and various small ensemble roles.

“It’s been fun having a bit more freedom creating characters,” she said. “My favorite is Emerencia, a flirty, giggly court girl who is always hitting on Don Quixote because she’s such a big fan.”

She also has enjoyed studying the Basque accent, which is slightly different from the Spanish accent used for other characters in the bilingual play.

“The Basque lady is really sassy, and kind of a snobby character. The country woman is also sassy. I guess I just have a lot of sass,” she laughed.

There are a few challenges along with the fun. Many quick costume changes keep her on her toes, and playing several roles requires utilizing different voices and body language to differentiate the characters.

The OSF opportunity resulted from her mother’s learning about the festival’s youth performer auditions.

“She was eager to help me get out there,” Williams said.

She auditioned for two OSF roles — as Chip in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” and as the soothsayer in “Julius Caesar.”

“The soothsayer is usually played by an old man, but for this production they wanted a child,” she said.

“The first time they had me read through the sides, I decided it would be a grand idea to deliver the lines with a cockney accent. So, that’s what I did. They asked me to do it again, but without the accent.”

She never was asked to read for the part of Chip, but she did get several callbacks for the soothsayer role and landed the part, which said something about her ability to take direction.

She shared the role in alternating performances with another 12-year-old, Callan Skuratowicz.

Williams was born and raised in Ashland. Her mom was an art major in college and a sculptor. Her dad was the first Black police officer to work for the Ashland Police Department and worked deejay jobs in his spare time.

“I accompanied my dad to many of his gigs. I loved tearing it up on the dance floor at strangers’ weddings,” she said. “My dad passed away in 2018.”

She landed her first lead role as Annie in “Annie Jr.” at Ashland Middle School the same day her dad died.

“It was one of the happiest and hardest days of my life,” she remembers. “When the cast list came out for ‘Annie Jr.’ along with the news that I was going to play Annie, my dad was ecstatic. He was always proud of his girls, especially when they succeeded in the things they loved.

“All he talked about all day was how excited he was to see me play the role, but he would never get to see me do it. Since then, I have often used theater as a coping mechanism, a way to escape,” she said.

Her first onstage roles were as the grass and lioness number two in “Lion King Jr.” at Ashland Middle School.

Most of her experience to date has been with the Ashland High School theater department, under the direction of Betsy Bishop. One of her favorite roles was as Caldwell B. Cladwell, one of the male leads in the musical, “Urinetown.”

“I got to play a full-grown male antagonist who sings bass,” she said. “I almost suffered permanent vocal damage from performing the role, but it was such a good time.”

AHS roles also included Ella in “Cinderella,” Alice Murphy in “Bright Star,” Miss Scarlet in “Clue” and many others.

Bishop has nothing but praise for Williams.

“Brooklyn has a great future,” she said. “She’s charismatic and generous, onstage and off. She’s fun to direct because she’s willing to try new ideas to deepen and enlarge her character.”

Williams sings, dances and acts.

“Yes, she’s a triple threat,” Bishop said. “She has a giant range, an expressive body, and an open heart as an actor.”

For Williams, it’s a mutual admiration society.

“Being in Betsy’s program was amazing,” she said. “She puts forming a relationship with her students above all and she genuinely cares about us all succeeding.”

During this gap year, she’s auditioning for everything in sight and has sent applications to intern at many theater companies, including OSF.

She will be an assistant director for AHS’s “Romeo and Juliet,” has been doing some choreographing, and is working on a vocal album she hopes to finish soon.

She had thought about getting back into tarot card reading, something she did online during the pandemic. “I made a pretty penny off it,” she said. However, she has been too busy with building the résumé.

Her interests outside performing include yoga, meditating, walks with her dogs, and enjoying the outdoors. She collects crystals and is studying sound therapy using a set of sound bowls.

Her goal is to perform on Broadway, and she also hopes to act in film or on TV as well as on the stage.

She plans to major in musical theater in college and hopes to earn a BFA in theater.

Where does she see herself in 10 years?

“Hopefully, I will be living in New York with two dachshunds I push around in a stroller,” she said.

The ultimate Broadway dream is to be in an original cast of a musical. But perhaps her biggest fantasy of all is to be a pop star. It’s something she doesn’t talk about much because, after all, it is a fantasy.

However, a lot of people who know her would say, don’t count her out!

For more information and tickets for “Don Quixote,” go to ctpmedford.org.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.