Ever wonder what it would be like to be a part of a community theater? One local teen tells us how theater has shaped her future.

Photo by Rachel B. Photography

Hello! I am Clara Louthan, a 19-year-old rising freshman at Illinois State University studying Musical theater. I am also a Quincy girl born and raised. I have been involved in music and theater for as long as I can remember and have been in 2 Quincy Community Theater shows.

The theater has always been a safe place for me. This past year, I was in 6 back to back shows, two overlapping, which challenged me in more ways than one. I started the year in QHS’s Hairspray playing Penny Lou Pingleton, a silly pigtailed girl who falls in love with a black man in the 60s. At the same time, I was doing my second show, QCT’s Little House on the Prairie, as Mary Ingalls, a sweet, mature eldest child who unfortunately finds herself blind at 17 due to sickness. In the morning, I would get up, go to school, go to Hairspray rehearsal, then go to Little House rehearsal. I had many people ask me why I was doing both of these shows at the same time. I would always answer because it was twice as rewarding. In the afternoon, I got to be comedic and enjoy my last year of high school with the people around me. In the evening, I transitioned to a strong, powerful woman who never let her disability get her down. I believe that is the beauty of theater. Getting to be whoever you want to be.

Growing up in Quincy, I have always been familiar with theater in our community. But I had always wondered what theater was like outside our small town. These thoughts led me to audition for a show at the Muni in Springfield, “Beauty and the Beast.” I was fortunate to be cast as a silly girl and a featured dancer. Going to a new place by myself was frightening. I didn’t know anyone and had to find my way around a three-story building in a town I had never been alone. I was right about my draw to the Muni. I felt so welcome, and we put on a pretty fantastic show. Many people thought I was crazy for commuting to Springfield all summer, but the only way to do theater was simply doing it.

As I enter this new chapter of uncertainty and excitement at Illinois State University, I can reflect on what a fantastic theater community Quincy has. Quincy has offered me so much and prepared me in so many ways for my future career. When I started high school four years ago, I never would have thought I would be here today. People frequently tell me that they love theater but could never do it. I’m here to say the only way to do theater is to do it! Go to the audition, take the class, and meet with other actors because you can! Quincy will welcome you as they did me.

Clara Louthan