When Alison Wexler walks off stage in the last performance of “A Christmas Carol” at South Coast Repertory, she will also be closing out 10 years of classes, acting and singing at the local theater.
But she will always carry with her some of the lessons – in theater and in life – that she learned at South Coast Rep, beginning as a starry-eyed second grader who wanted to be a famous actress.
Wexler, 17, is now a senior at Corona del Mar High School. She’d still like to be a famous actress, but she’s practical. When she starts college next year, she’ll be studying to become a physical therapist.
“It’s not a guaranteed job,” Wexler said of Hollywood fame and fortune.
On the other hand, she notes, “I love biology and I love helping people,” and there’s a growing market for physical therapists.
“And I can still try to get acting jobs,” she adds with a smile.
Wexler is one of two girls playing Martha, the oldest Cratchit daughter, as the children in the show make up two companies that alternate performances.
But whether on stage or off, Wexler said, she is using skills and experiences from her classes at the theater.
“If I’m doing a presentation in school, and maybe I’m not really prepared, I can make it look like I was prepared, because of the improvisation classes.”
As noted previously, she’s practical. A more profound take-away, perhaps, is how she interacts with others.
“It’s easier for me to be comfortable around other people,” she says. “As an actress, you have to get comfortable quickly with the character you’re playing and with the other people on stage.”
She also agreed that playing different characters as an actress makes it easier for her to relate to different sorts of people when she’s off the stage.
She’ll also be carrying the memories of the people and experiences at SCR.
“My first teacher, Steve DeHaud, meant a lot,” she said. “He inspires me to this day.”
DeHaud died two years ago.
Then there’s musical theater class, which she’s currently in for the second time. She likes to sing, she says, but singing on stage with everyone watching and listening, “I get really nervous and I shake – but I really like it.”
She also remembers her stage combat class fondly.
“I beat the teacher in a knife fight,” said says with a broad smile. “After that, I felt like I could do just about anything.”
And that’s the big lesson, she said. What would she tell that starry-eyed second grader today?
“Go for it. There’s no harm in trying. And it definitely helps in other aspects of life, even if you don’t end up doing it as a career.”