“If I have a line that makes the audience laugh, then I’m happy,” says Charity Buckbee, who is playing the title character in Steamer No. 10’s “Charlotte’s Web.” “I think I have a little bit of clown inside me. But I do like everything about the theater.” (photo: Joseph Schuyler)
At one point in her athletic career, Charity Buckbee realized she wasn’t going to be the next Mia Hamm or Nancy Lieberman. Instead of playing sports, she decided, she would start playing characters.
The switch from the athletic field to the stage seems to have worked out well for Buckbee, who had played just about every sport possible while going to school at Warwick Valley High School in Orange County, just this side of the New Jersey state line.
While she still enjoys playing pickup basketball when she can, the 2011 University at Albany graduate is keeping herself much busier these days with theater work. She is currently playing the title character in E.B. White’s children’s story, “Charlotte’s Web,” being produced by Steamer No. 10 Theatre in Albany.
WHERE: Steamer No. 10 Theatre, 500 Western Ave., Albany
WHEN: 3 p.m. today, 3 p.m. Saturday and Jan. 20, and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 21 (Martin Luther King Day)
HOW MUCH: $13 advance, $15 door
MORE INFO: 438-5503, www.steamer10theatre.org
Published in 1952, “Charlotte’s Web” is the story of a barnyard spider determined to save a pig named Wilbur from the farmer’s ax. It quickly became one of the most popular children’s stories in history, and Joseph Robinette and Charles Strouse introduced the musical version at the Actors’ Playhouse Musical Theatre for Young Audiences in Coral Gables, Fla., during the 2006–2007 season.
Joining Buckbee on stage in this production will be Alain Ackerman as Wilbur, while Evan Jones (Avery) and Jennifer Lefsyk (Fern) handle most of the other roles. Directing is Steamer No. 10’s Ric Chesser.
Buckbee, who is also working two other part-time jobs along with her acting gig, recently relocated from Albany to Ballston Spa. She and her three sisters grew up on their parents’ dairy farm, but she has no plans to become too heavily involved in the family business.
Q: Why did you stop playing competitive sports and take up acting?
A: It was too much of a conflict to do both sports and acting when I started at Orange County Community College. In high school I was a crazy jock that would play any sport I could, but I was never the star player. I was always good enough to make the team, but I realized I was only an average player.
Q: How much had you acted?
A: It was something I always thought about. In fourth grade we put on a production of “100 Years of Broadway,” which was just little snippets of scenes from famous Broadway musicals. I loved it. I ate it up. I also did a middle-school production, but back then I really loved playing sports.
Q: So how did you get back into the theater?
A: I really found acting again when I first went to Orange County [CC]. I would have loved to play sports, but it was so time-consuming. You had two-hour bus trips, and then you play for two hours, and then another two-hour bus trip. I thought, “There’s always theater.” I was talking to Max Schaefer, the head of the theater department at Orange County, and he said to come on in and audition and that’s what I did. I had a very small nonspeaking part, but it was great fun.
Q: And then you transferred to the University at Albany?
A: By then I knew what I wanted to do, so it was either New Paltz or UAlbany. I didn’t want to go down to the city. I wanted to go upstate, and they were the only two schools I could afford. A friend of mine saw a production of “Jesus Hopped the A Train.” She highly recommended it and thought it would be a great idea for me to go to UAlbany.
Q: What do you like about acting?
A: I like everything about it, but I guess my favorite thing is making the audience laugh. If I have a line that makes the audience laugh, then I’m happy. I think I have a little bit of clown inside me. But I do like everything about the theater. Behind the stage, I also like to paint and make sets, work with props and stage design. It’s not just about acting to me. I love all of it.
Q: What about writing or directing?
A: Back at Albany, I took a creative writing class and I came up with this short story about a doctor who was treating a clown that had been attacked by a tiger. From there it took off. I expanded it into a play, and we did it for Plays in Process, which is part of the play-writing class at Albany. You submit a play and the professor decides which two or three they will actually put forth to work on. I graduated in 2011 and my play, “Under the Big Top,” actually didn’t get produced until the following season. But I really liked that part of it, and directing is the one thing I haven’t done yet that I would really like to do. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do that at Steamer No. 10.
Q: Why did you want to be a part of the production of “Charlotte’s Web” at Steamer No. 10?
A: I started working there in the fall, doing “Treasure Island,” and then Ric asked me to do “Snow Queen” and then this show. I can remember one of my teachers reading us the book in elementary school, and I really like its ability to bring very dramatic scenes to the stage without it being too much for the kids to watch. There is a death scene, and the kids will understand what’s going on. They might even cry, but it’s not too much for them to handle.
Q: How are you handling the play’s musical parts?
A: When Ric first offered me the part, I read the script and said, “You want me to sing?” I was never comfortable singing or confident in my ability to sing, but I took about six lessons last summer and I’ve definitely improved.
Q: Did you go back to the family farm to research the life of a barnyard spider?
A: I haven’t done that much research on my character, but that’s a very good suggestion. I probably should go back to the farm and do some research.
Q: Is there a possibility that you might go back into the family business?
A: It’s a very hard job, 24-7. I started working in the barn when I was 7, but once I started going to college I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m the third daughter, and it’s my sister, the second oldest, who has shown a lot of interest in taking over the farm. It’s not my thing. If Bridget wants it, she can have it.