THE CAST: clockwise from top left: Joseph Abrego, Nicole Erb, Paul Culos, Amielynn Abellera, Ricky Abilez, Nicole Cowans and Carina Morales.
Do you remember the childhood toy that you loved the most? The seven actors who bring the beloved tale of The Velveteen Rabbit (May 24-June 9, Theatre for Young Audiences) to life do. In addition to dishing on that kid memory, they talk about their favorite childhood books and more. They’re all excited to bring this show to life—and are moved by the story of the transformational power of love.
Character: Velveteen Rabbit
Acting: I wanted to be an actress since forever—when I was 5—because my parents took me to see lots of plays and musicals.
SCR credits: I’m making my debut!
Other things I’ve done include the TV shows “Just Add Magic,” “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” and “NCIS.” I also narrate fun middle school and teen audio books at Audible.com.
A big adventure from childhood: We had a large living room and my big brother and I would pretend the carpeted floor was a shark-infested ocean. The game was that we'd have to travel from one side of the room to the other without getting eaten by a shark. We would use furniture to build an adventure course through the large ocean. Tables became floating towers, the couch became an island, pillows became boulders, chairs turned into safety towers, the fireplace mantle became a rocky ledge to perch upon. We would take turns hopping and jumping from one thing to another and make scary shark sounds for each other when it wasn't our turn.
A book I loved: I gravitated toward The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It was a complicated book for me and I would feel different emotions every time I would read it as I grew older. Sometimes, the tree's unconditional love inspired and moved me, and relieved me of my fear of hurting someone with mistakes or bad choices. Other times, I felt that the boy was incredibly selfish, taking and taking from the tree until the tree had nothing else to give but his remaining stump, which still provided relief for the boy. Regardless, it was a story that I always wanted to read over and over. It encouraged me to know that when you love someone unconditionally, you love them and they love you—through the good, the bad, the easy, the hard and everything in between.
My favorite stuffed animal: When I was five, my favorite stuffed animal was my Baby Fozzie Bear. He had a Christmas outfit on—a red and green scarf with a matching red hat and green holly. This particular stuffed animal was a limited time offer at McDonald’s and was very hard to find. It was Christmas Eve and every McDonald's was sold out. I was so sad; I remember my Dad driving me around one night to five different McDonald's before finding the very last Fozzie available in our town. That made me so happy and every time I see a Fozzie Bear, I remember my Dad's love, determination and how he didn't give up on finding me that stuffed animal.
SCR credits: My last show here was on the big stage, Shakespeare in Love.
Other things I’ve done include Frederick at MainStreet Theatre Company.
A big adventure from childhood: My brother, my aunt and I would use chairs and blankets to build a fort to help protect us from Big Foot and other creatures of the woods! It always worked. Then we’d take down the fort using our magic wands! We were in training to become powerful wizards. This was before we went to Hogwarts.
A book I loved: Oh, Green Eggs and Ham—I think mainly because I love the color green and I was obsessed with the idea of green eggs. But, as I've grown older, the story, to me, is about embracing the unknown. Sam-I-Am teaches us that being open to things that seem foreign or different is essential to living a happy, full life and that a simple meal can be commonly shared among creatures of all shapes, colors and sizes.
My favorite stuffed animal: I've had so many special stuffed animals. My turtle, Franklin, and my dog, Pups, really helped me overcome bullying in elementary school. Sometimes they were the only things that could make me feel better—when it wasn't a hug from my Mom, it was a cuddle from one of them! My Dad gave me Pups and my Mom gave me Franklin so, when my parents divorced, the stuffed animals reminded me of them when I spent weekends away. They were very real to me and I still have them!
Characters: Wooden Lion, Furry Rabbit and Sam the Gardener
SCR credits: I was in Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook.
Other things I’ve done include: Evita, Man of La Mancha, Carousel and In the Heights
A big adventure from childhood: I loved dressing up with dresses and heels.
A book I loved: My favorite childhood book was called Milk and Cookies. It was a story about a little boy who was afraid of the sounds that came from his basement. He spent lots of time speculating and worrying about the types of monsters that lived down there. When his Grandfather discovered the boy was afraid of the basement sounds, he took him down there to show him it was just the water heater! They laughed over it with milk and cookies. This book helped me realize that we create a lot of the fears we have—and we can overcome fear by confronting it.
My favorite toy: Barbie dolls.
Characters: Wind-up Ballerina, Wild Rabbit and New Bunny
SCR credits: This is my second show here this season—I was in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience. Oh, and I was in a concert-reading of the musical Prelude to a Kiss during the Pacific Playwrights Festival in April.
My favorite animal (this one's not stuffed!) when I was a kid was the mythological creature called the Phoenix. I loved that it was so magical that it could be reborn from its own ashes!
I was in last season’s show, Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook
Other things I’ve done include
the television shows “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” “Superior Donuts” and “Shameless.”
A big adventure from childhood:
As a kid, I remember disappearing into my drawings. I would spend hours sketching images and making up stories in my head about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Batman or the American presidents, whom I had a strange fixation on.
A book I loved: The Hobbit
was one of my favorite books as a kid. My Dad gave me my first copy. It was an exciting, scary adventure and probably the first time I had delved into more advanced reading. I can’t part with it to this day.
My favorite toys:
I had a white, fluffy stuffed dog with black spots that my cousins gave me for Christmas one year. I named him Ruff. He wore a flat cap with my initials sewn into it and I held on to him for many, many years. But my most favorite
toys as a child were my extensive collection of Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, and super hero action figures. I would make up new stories every day with them!
Characters: Model Airplane, Doctor, Nursery Magic Fairy
SCR credits: I was here last year in Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook.
Other things I’ve done include doing stand-up comedy with Upright Citizens Brigade and in the TV shows “Scandal,” “Big Time Rush” and “Hack My Life.”
A big adventure from childhood: Growing up in Pennsylvania meant there was always some woodsey area to play in. I grew up near a bunch of creeks and forest areas and always liked looking for animals and fish and bugs around me. Pennsylvania is also nothing but old buildings and historic grounds so, as a kid, it feels like everywhere is haunted or you’re hunting for clues. You used to find arrow heads in the woods near my house. I also remember going to Gettysburg on a class trip and people finding civil war bullets and old buttons everywhere.
A book I loved: The Borrowers! My Mom would read me another chapter every night before bed. I loved the family and I spent a lot of time making tiny furniture and putting it around my room so that when the Borrowers that lived in my house came out at night, they'd have furniture and gifts that were just their size (and they could even keep it if they wanted). I'm sure that I loved the book because my Mom read it to me and made it such a special part of my daily routine. I was also a big fan of Are You My Mother?
My favorite stuffed animal: My family had a husky-shepard mix named Frisbee while I was growing up. She looked like a wolf. So, of course, my favorite stuffed animal was a husky that I named Baby Frisbee. I loved Frisbee (the actual dog) so much that when she got older and it was time for us to say goodbye to her, it was nice to have a mini-version of her to hold on to and remember her by. Baby Frisbee still lives in my old room at my Mom's house.
Characters: Nana and Toy Soldier
SCR credits: The young audiences musical, Amos & Boris
Other things I’ve done include: The national tour of Junie B. Jones and musicals at Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Singapore.
A big adventure from childhood: When I was a kid, I loved to play with my American Girl dolls. I pretended that they were my children and I would invent all kinds of dramatic situations for them to play out. Sometimes, my dolls would get in fights with each other and I would help them make up and become friends again; or they would get sick in the middle of the night and I’d have to rush them to the hospital for emergency surgery! Other times, I would take them on exciting imaginary trips to Europe or Disneyland! Much like the Velveteen Rabbit was real to the Boy, my dolls were real to me, and I spent endless happy hours playing with them.
A book I loved: A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a thrilling story that’s full of exciting characters, and delivers beautiful messages about embracing individuality, and the ultimate triumph of love.
My favorite stuffed animal: When I was very little, I had a stuffed leopard named Leopard. She was a large stuffed animal, actually taller than I was at the time! I used to carry her around using both hands to balance her across the top of my head. Leopard loved to sing songs and star in shows in the living room with me. She was also very soft and gave the best hugs!
Learn more about The Velveteen Rabbit and buy tickets.