Local actresses find adventure playing Winnie in ‘Tuck Everlasting’
“May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young…”
Bob Dylan, 1974
The concept of eternal youth has tantalized humankind for thousands of years. It has appeared in religion, folklore, poems and novels, such as Natalie Babitt’s 1975 children’s book “Tuck Everlasting.”
That book, in turn, has been adapted to film and a musical that the Hale Center Theatre Orem opens on Thursday.
The story, which takes place in 1893, follows Winnie Foster, an 11-year-old girl who, after a run of events, finds herself trapped with the Tucks, a family who found the secret of everlasting life by drinking from a magical spring.
During the plot, one of the Tuck sons, Jared, falls in love with Winnie.
Two Wasatch Back-based actors — Ava Hoekstra and Abigail Scott — have been cast as Winnie, and will perform on alternate nights.
Hoekstra, 14, who attends Treasure Mountain Junior High, will perform Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and a few Saturday matinees, while former Parkite Scott, a 16-year-old sophomore at Wasatch High School in Heber, will perform Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday nights.
The two will also appear in other performances as needed through June 15.
Both Hoekstra and Scott said they and Winnie share many of the same attributes.
“She’s a spunky girl,” Hoekstra said. “She’s a girly girl, but also mischievous, and I’m mischievous.”
Scott feels she, like Winnie, is full of life.
“She seeks adventure wherever she goes,” Scott said. “And when she finds herself trapped with the Tucks, she begins to see that as a new adventure.”
Scott said it was fun getting back into an 11-year-old’s frame of mind.
“Kids that age are so open and they say whatever comes into their minds,” Scott said. “They are bright-eyed and love discovering things.”
Hoekstra, who is also scheduled to sing the Star Spangled Banner to open a Salt Lake Bees game Thursday night, said she was challenged by the script, which contains 19th century slang.
“It was hard to keep it in period because of the words we were saying,” she said.
Hoekstra said the two actors had to adjust how proper the children were back then.
“We needed to keep our postures up because the people were more formal,” Hoekstra said. “That was one of my struggles with the acting aspect.”
“Postures have been a big thing we’ve all been working on,” she said. “I’ve been especially trying to find the balance of being proper as well as remembering that I’m portraying a child.”
Helping the two actors in how they present themselves is choreographer Jennifer Hill-Barlow and director David Morgan.
“Both Abigail and Ava are very skilled singers and actresses, especially for their ages,” Hill-Barlow said. “(David) and I both love the honesty of these young actresses and their innate youthful energy. The character of Winnie is adventurous, daring, loves freedom and people. Both young performers embody her spirit and are a joy to watch.”
Hoekstra enjoys working with Morgan because he is interested in character development.
“He always asks what our characters are feeling,” she said. “He wants to know their tactics and what they are going through in order to help the character more relatable, honest and real.”
Scott said she enjoys working with Morgan’s perspectives of Winnie.
“He helps us within specific scenes to understand her on deeper levels, especially the connection between her and Jesse,” she said.
At one point Jesse gives, who has fallen lin love with Winnie, gives her a flask of spring water and tells her to drink it when she turns 17, so she can live forever at that age.
While the scenes between Winnie and Jesse are enjoyable to perform, both Hoekstra and Scott said their favorite scene comes when Angus Tuck, the family patriarch who hates his immortal life, advises Winnie to not drink the water Jesse gave her and, instead, live out her mortal life.
During that scene, Angus says, “Winnie, you don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.”
“That, to me, is one of the most powerful lines of the show,” Hoekstra said. “I think many people think it would be incredible to live forever, because they are so afraid of death. But the more you think about it, the more you realize if you did live forever, you will lose so much throughout the years, because everything changes around you, but you’re stuck in one spot.”
Scott said that scene and line has helped her realize the value of life.
“When you think about what he says, you come to appreciate each moment you live in,” she said. “That’s the whole message of the musical. We live this life and have this opportunity to find adventure.”
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The Utah Conservatory is recruiting singers to perform with the Distinguished Concerts International New York in February at Carnegie Hall.