Local actress Ava Hoekstra all aflutter to be in Hale Center Theater Orem’s ‘Blink’
Ava Hoekstra is happy to be on stage again.
The 15-year-old Park City High School sophomore is one of two actresses performing the role of teenage Sarah in Hale Center Theater Orem’s new musical, “Blink,” her first role since she played Winnie in “Tuck Everlasting” at the same theater in May 2019.
“It was different to be on stage this time, because I wasn’t used to it after a long break,” Hoekstra said. “But it was pretty easy getting back into it, because I feel acting and singing come naturally to me. I find my footing as soon as someone throws me into production.”
“Blink,” which opened on Sept. 18, and will showcase Hoekstra’s final performances Thursday and Saturday, was written by playwright Chase Ramsey and lyricist/composer David Smith.
The story is about the relationship between a father and daughter, according to Ramsey, a Broadway actor who was in “Book of Mormon,” before COVID-19 closed theaters this past spring.
The idea of the story came from Smith as he was tucking his 1-year-old daughter into bed, Ramsey said.
“He was on his phone, and she reached up and pushed the phone out of Dave’s face,” he said. “Dave then had his sort of vision of his life wasting precious moments with her and losing track of time because of his phone.”
The idea translated into a Pixar short-film-like scenario where the daughter ages 10 years every time the father looks up from his phone, Ramsey said.
“We took the idea of how years can pass in a blink if you don’t treat time like a companion,” he said.
Ramsey and Smith wrote the musical in less than a month, with the idea of presenting it to the Hale Center Theater Orem.
“Because theaters were having financial problems and closing across the country, due to the COVID shutdown, the idea for us to write the play was to keep the Hale alive,” Ramsey said.
Since the writers and theater put the production on the fast track, there was no audition process.
“We just asked people to come do this, and we looked for those who are extremely gifted and so reliable,” he said.
The role of Teen Sarah was basically written for Hoekstra and her double-cast partner Bo Jaqueline Chester, according to Ramsey.
“We knew they would show up, and we knew we could rely on them,” he said. “In fact, they are living their roles as teen girls right now in real time.”
Sarah is one of the most challenging roles Hoekstra has played.
“It’s different for me, because most of my roles have been fantasy characters — Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and Winnie in ‘Tuck Everlasting,’” she said. “In this production, I get to play a teenager, like myself, but it was pretty difficult at the beginning. It was hard for me to make the role seem real. And while Chase would coach me through things, it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do.”
Still, Hoekstra enjoys playing a teenage girl.
“I grow every time I perform it, and I can personalize it and relate the role to my real life,” she said. “This has been a learning experience for me.”
Adding to Hoekstra’s enjoyment is performing with David K. Martin, who portrays her father.
“I adore him so much,” she said. “I was in ‘Pinocchio’ with him at Hale Centre Theatre Sandy a couple of years ago. So there was already chemistry, and it doesn’t feel like I’m acting with him. He’s my father figure at the theater. He’s a great friend and so great.”
Hoekstra’s favorite scene is the number “What It’s Like,” a moment when Sarah tells her father about her insecurities.
“I tell him that I don’t have any friends, and I hate the way I look,” Hoekstra said. “I think it’s a good thing for parents to see this. Kids really go through these emotions, and I think they can be scared to tell their parents.”
Ramsey witnessed a change in Hoekstra’s performance growth since day one of rehearsals.
“I don’t think she gets the opportunity to really dig deep like she had to for this role, because for me, the hardest thing for an actor is having to tap into things you are actually going through in real life,” he said. “There was a moment on opening night where it all clicked in, and I went up to her afterwards and said, ‘That was it!’ I’m so proud of what she is doing in the show.”
Rehearsals for “Blink” were held on a five-week condensed schedule, and also had to follow COVID-19 protocols.
“The Hale took our temperatures every time we entered the building, and we were required to wear masks backstage,” she said.
The safety guidelines, which require the cast and crew to wash their hands between scenes and sanitizing the theater, have been beefed up during the production’s run, Hoekstra said.
“We ask that the audience members wear masks when they come see the play,” she said.
To further ensure safety, Hoekstra’s parents decided to enroll her in online learning for the rest of the quarter.
“(We) were concerned that she could get into a quarantine situation, which would have interrupted the production,” Hoekstra’s mother Kristy said in a text. “We didn’t want that to happen.”
Hoekstra is grateful Ramsey, Smith and Hale Center Theater reached out to her for the production.
“I missed performing a lot, becasue I love it,” she said. “Acting has allowed me to express myself and make connections. This is my passion.”
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