Olivia Spokoiny has been in The Sound of Music three times and Annie twice. She has been in Nora at Intiman, White Christmas at the 5th Avenue, and only one fringe theater production, Macbeth with Ghost Light Theatricals. She is 13 years old.
Olivia's mom—who bought this story in this year's Strangercrombie auction—took her to her first audition when she was in first grade: The Sound of Music at the Village Theatre in Issaquah.
"My mom was pregnant with my little sister and saw an ad in the Village Theatre paper," Olivia says. "She asked if I wanted to audition, and I loved the movie, so I said yes. I did the song 'Do-Re-Mi.'" Olivia doesn't sing songs, she does them.
While Olivia waited for her callback, her sister Eva was born. "My baby sister went with me," Olivia says. "She was just a few days old." Olivia got the part.
But that wasn't Olivia's first time onstage. When she was in first grade, her mother, Elizabeth, organized a Fine Arts Night at Olivia's Issaquah elementary school. "It was just something they did once a year," Olivia says. "She knew I'd really love it. I did a dance my mom made, from West Side Story, to that song that goes 'boy, boy, crazy boy.' Then my mom asked if I wanted to do more dancing."
Elizabeth (a substitute teacher) and her husband, Larry, (a lawyer) enrolled Olivia and her older sister Leah in dance classes. They started working the competitive dance circuit, dancing tap, ballet, jazz, and hiphop. Soon Olivia was winning awards at pageants such as Dance Masters of America, Dance USA, Spotlight, Petite Miss Starpower, Petite Miss Spotlight, and Petite Miss Dance of Washington.
Olivia is also a member of the Seattle Storm Dance Troupe, a group of girls who dance in KeyArena during WNBA games. Her signature dance move is the worm. It always drives the crowd bonkers. So the Sonics asked her to occasionally join their dance team of grown-up cheerleaders.
But Olivia prefers the theater. Theater is an exciting and mysterious place for a child—a place where the universe is topsy-turvy, and children can be as important, as powerful, as adults. From backstage, Olivia sees the props before they appear, knows when the audience will laugh or clap or cry, can watch stagehands pulling ropes that move the scenery around.
Being backstage during her first play, The Sound of Music, was a little unsettling. "I looked up and there were a bunch of set pieces (I think there was a big wooden bed) hanging over my head," Olivia says. "That was scary. And there was so much going on backstage and you couldn't touch the ropes because something might fall on the actors' heads."
School plays aren't satisfying for Olivia—those have four months of rehearsals and only two performances, instead of the two months' rehearsal and 30 performances. The latter is better, Olivia says, because you can watch the other actors grow into their characters, watch them recover when they screw up. "You learn," she says, "how to make something more than just a show. You can get into the character more."
Olivia likes directors Jane Jones and Myra Platt, of Book-It Theatre, for the same reason: "They give you a lot of information about your character." Olivia has been in three Book-It Productions—The House of the Spirits, A Tale of Two Cities, and Peter Pan, where her performance won the attention of a reviewer from the Seattle Gay News: "The way the mermaid moves is truly remarkable and has to be done by a very strong and physically proficient person. Here, Olivia Spokoiny—a young lady of many talents—makes the mermaid swim."
Theater is where Olivia got her start, but film may be her future. She talks fondly about an action movie, called Bullets, Blood & a Fistful of Ca$h, she was in a few years ago. In the movie, she meets a mysterious bleeding man, gets chased by a bad guy, and has to run through an exploding door. "There were mini firecrackers going all around it," she says. "We could only do one take because it took them two hours to set up the shot. They just pulled me through and I screamed and hoped I didn't get hit by any of them."
She also played an orphan in Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain!, his silent-movie fable (with narration, a live band, and Foley sound effects) about sexual development and a family romance on a barren island. Olivia knew it was going to be creepy during the filming—in the movie, the woman running the orphanage sucks the youth out of children by way of wounds in their necks—but it was creepier than she expected. "We didn't know about making the woman younger or the nudity or anything like that," she says. "It was a huge surprise because I knew the guy they showed in the nudity scene. I was in A Tale of Two Cities with him. I closed my eyes and said, 'Wow, I really didn't need to see that."
Olivia's next audition is this Monday, January 28, for The Diary of Anne Frank with the Evergreen Family Theater.