Like daughter, like father when it comes to acting

Alexandria and Chris Thurtle take to the boards in Just Off Broadway productions of 'Annie' and 'Pirates'

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  • Alexandria and Chris Thurtle as Annie and Drake the butler in the Just Off Broadway production of "Annie Warbucks." (Photo provided)

  • The cast of "Annie Warbucks" (Photo provided)

“I had been shy all my life, so it was really amazing having the feeling of not having to hold back or anything.”
Alexandra Thurtle

By Ginny Privitar

— Eleven-year-old Alexandria Thurtle and her father, Chris, may just become an Orange County acting dynasty.

The two, from Goshen, recently appeared to critical and public acclaim in the Just Off Broadway company’s recent production of "Annie Warbucks" at The Theater at West Shore Station in Newburgh. Alexandria played the title role of Annie, while Chris, who originally hails from England, played Drake the butler.

“Alex has been a performer since a very young age,” notes her mom, Heidi. “She’s always been interested in dancing, singing and performing. She’s been in dance since she was three. She’s always been very reserved, but on stage she definitely comes to life and really enjoys it.”

Alexandria’s interest in acting started at age 7, when she attended a half-day theater camp run by Acting Out Playhouse, and held at SUNY Orange.

Heidi said, “The first day, when I went to pick her up, she said, ‘I want to stay here. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’”

She knew right there and then. At the end of the camp, Alexandria performed the role of Babette in "Beauty and the Beast." She was hooked.

She auditioned for Just Off Broadway in 2012 and won the role of Marta in its production of "The Sound of Music." One day, while Heidi and Alexandria were at rehearsal, the director mentioned he was looking for men to cast "Pirates of Penzance." Heidi thought, “I’ll ask my husband, he’s very musical. He sings and plays clarinet and piano."

And so Chris embarked on his own acting career. "I’d seen shows in the West End in London, but never had anything to do with acting until I got volunteered by my wife," he said.

He got involved at first because of Alexandria's interest, but he found he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It was the first time I’d done anything like that," Chris said of his experience in Pirates. "I thought, ‘Why not?’ I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into, and I had a great time."

Father and daughter learn from each other and share notes on acting.

“It’s become a real bonding experience between them," Heidi said.

Chris works for SUNY Orange as Assistant Director of Communications, and Heidi works from home in customer service. She said she would be terrified "going on the boards" like her husband.

Alexandria — “Alex” to her family — has also appeared as a "Who" in "Seussical the Musical" and as part of the ensemble in "Miracle Worker." She played Brigitta in the Goshen High School production of "The Sound of Music." Alexandria also appeared on two cable TV shows: a pilot called "Family Secrets," which aired in May 2013, and an episode of "Celebrity Ghost Stories" in September 2013.

Chris appeared as Mr. Mayor in "Seussical the Musical" for Just Off Broadway and in the ensemble for "Fiddler on the Roof."

“The nice thing about this company is everyone is treated as a professional," Chris said. "I think this company is an excellent experience for Alex, run by Equity people. It’s been an invaluable experience for her.”

A break from shyness

Alexandria remembers her first acting experience.

“They got us up on stage and (we) performed individually," she said. "I had been shy all my life, so it was really amazing having the feeling of not having to hold back or anything.”

Alex is an amazingly expressive actress who inhabits the character of Annie. She said she loves “portraying another character who is a very different character from my personality right now. It was a challenge, but it was really fun.”

The most difficult part has been trying to fit her other activities in around the rehearsal and performance schedules. Alexandria recently competed with her Division I team from Goshen Intermediate School at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Iowa. They performed “How We Rule, Problem 3” — and won.

Alex is taking some well-deserved time off from acting, while dad Chris is doing "Les Misérables" next with Just on Broadway. Alex will be assistant stage manager for the production, learning behind the scenes and improving her stagecraft.

She’s loves dance and attends M’Lanie Hunter Dance Studio in Chester, where she learns ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop.

This busy young lady also plays the flute and takes private voice lessons. And she really likes reading and writing; Alexandria writes columns and fiction for her own amusement.

She has two brothers: Benjamin, 9, whose birthday was July 19; and Jack, 2. “They can be a bit annoying," she said, "but they love me and they’re very supportive.”

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