Girls’ Night Out Story #9: Amalia LaViolette

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My earliest memories have to do with performing. I loved the dress ups that my mom had in our playroom and would often concoct skits and commercials to perform for whomever would sit and watch.

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska. There weren’t a lot of extra curricular activities that didn’t have to do with school. Of course I was in Band, Choir, Show Choir, and Drill Team in High School but there weren’t a lot of dance classes around.

My Mom enrolled me in gymnastics from a young age and there was the (very) occasional “dance” class sometimes. And of course I took piano lessons from a very young age as well, but I longed for more performing experiences.About 30 miles from my hometown, there was a summer stock theatre in the even tinier town of Tarkio, MO. It was called The Mule Barn Theatre and it was, in fact, an old mule barn that was a 3 story, octagonal building, and built in the early 1890s. It was converted into a theatre in the 1960s and was on the Historical Registry.

Photo Source
Photo Source

Why am I telling you the story of this historic barn? Because it features prominently in my growing up years. Since there wasn’t a lot of creative outlet for me in my hometown, my parents had season tickets to The Mule Barn every summer.

I would relish going there once a week to see the shows, especially the musicals. Because this was summer stock, the talent was pulled from all over the United States, especially Equity actors from NYC. They had apprentices that were non paid positions, in fact they had to pay a fee, but who could audition for each of the shows once they were accepted as an apprentice.

My best friend and I would often go see these shows a couple times a week and were enthralled when we would sometimes meet one of the actors. I remember being depressed the next day after seeing a show because THIS is what I longed to do, but couldn’t.

Fast forward to the summer I graduated from HS. The student teacher in Chorus was performing at the Mule Barn that summer and he contacted me saying they needed someone to
play “Fredrika” in A Little Night Music and would I come audition. WHAT?! My dream come
true!!!

My best friend and I, along with my Mom, drove to Tarkio and I think both of them were as
nervous as I as I headed into the audition room. I made it!!!

It was in the middle of the season so I didn’t get to spend the entire summer there, but most of it. I made friends that I’m still friends with now. I learned so much, too.

For Christmas that year, my mom made me a collage of the shows I had done the previous summer at The Mule Barn with a note from my parents saying if I wanted to return as an apprentice, they were all for it. That was one of the best gifts I have ever received.

I got to spend the next summer performing there as well and that was even more special than the first.

I have so many amazing memories of those two summers. I remember during “Show Boat” there was a black chorus that came from Kansas City and they were phenomenal performers.They hosted a dance class every morning for the company and I ate it up. I remember being so sore the next day after those classes that I almost couldn’t walk but I loved it! I was FINALLY doing what I had dreamed of!

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When I learned a few years later that the entire building had burned to the ground, I cried. So much history, vanished.

I thank God for the experience He allowed me to have, the friendships that still endure to this day, my parent’s generosity, and the memories that will last my lifetime.

(As a fun side note, last night I closed as “Winifred Banks” in a wonderful production of Mary Poppins. Our “Bert” was one of my best friends from my second summer at the Mule Barn. We had lost touch for years and when I moved back to St. Louis, he and I got to do a few shows together, but it had been a long time since we shared the stage.)

Break a leg,
Amalia


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I am a singer, Weight Watcher Leader, Bible Study Facilitator, Mother, and Wife (not necessarily in that order). I love Jesus, animals, and senior citizens. I also love clothes, make up, and accessories. 


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