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Actress is ready for prime time
Every actor dreams of that big break: Moving on from high school and community theater shows to being cast for the first time in a professional theater production.
Broadway Rose audiences will have the opportunity to see that firsthand watching Molly Duddlesten perform in "The Addams Family" as daughter Wednesday, her first role in a professional theater company.
From a start in local theater in the Willamette Valley, Duddlesten is making her way north to the bright lights of the metro area, home to several professional companies, but Broadway Rose snagged her first.
Duddlesten graduated from Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis and spent a year at Oregon State University, "where I changed my major three times," she said. Now a sophomore at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, she has set her sights on a theater major.
But she was already heading in that direction growing up, when she sang in school choirs in elementary, middle and high school. "I can't say I'm a dancer, but I took ballet lessons," Duddlesten said. "I stopped when we got to pointe because I knew my feet would be all messed up. And I'm not a sports girl."
While many singer/actors take years of voice lessons, Duddlesten was blessed with a singing voice capable of carrying a musical, because she only took one-and-a-half years of voice lessons in Corvallis.
Her high school did not put on musicals, but it didn't really matter because Duddlesten threw herself into community theater in Albany and Corvallis starting at age 6.
"I was in kids' shows in Corvallis, and my sister and I did it together," Duddlesten said. "It was so much fun. We got in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' and said to our mom, 'You should audition.' She loved to sing and never had a lesson, but she got the role of Annie.
"Now she and my dad do shows together. She is performing in and my dad is directing 'Red White and Tuna.' He has had no training and is not much of a singer, but he does great character roles."
Working on her goal of graduating to professional theater in the Portland area, Duddlesten auditioned last year for Broadway Rose's "Fly by Night" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
"I didn't get a call-back so I did the general auditions for this year's shows," she said. "I have wanted to be Wednesday in 'The Addams Family' forever, and for the audition, you have to speak and sing two songs. I chose an upbeat song and did a slower one, and I prepared a monologue.
"I flubbed it. I don't like to do monologues. But about a week later, I got a call-back and went for another audition, but they didn't say when we would hear if we got something. Someone said we would hear within a week, and the next day I got an email saying I got the role of Wednesday.
"It was crazy because we weren't supposed to tell anybody, and I didn't know who else was in it. When I saw the list of names, they didn't really mean anything to me because I really don't know people in Portland theater yet."
Rehearsals started at the beginning of June after three vocal rehearsals. "I missed two of the three vocal rehearsals because I was appearing in 'Sweeny Todd' at the Albany Civic Theatre," Duddlesten said.
She has quickly adapted to Broadway Rose's compressed rehearsal schedule, saying, "I like it instead of dragging it out for three or four months. I work better with a deadline. I will definitely audition for more shows."
Duddlesten is living with her parents in north Albany so she has a bit of a commute to Tigard, but she sees the hours spent driving as a good time to listen to the songs in the show and learn them.
And she will soon be taking a much longer trip, flying to New York City after "The Addams Family" thanks to earning a spot in a weeklong theater training program through the Open Jar Institute in New York.
Duddlesten found herself double-booked in February when she, her sister and their parents were all appearing in "Big Fish, the Musical" at Albany Civic Theatre, and she had to fly to Denver for a chance to be nominated for the New York program, but her sister saved the day by taking over her role.
Duddlesten earned a spot on the New York trip, which includes the opportunity to see four Broadway shows. "I'm super-excited about it," she said. "And actually, my whole family is going to New York the same week, but they will be tourists while I'm studying."
While appearing on Broadway in the future might be nice, Duddlesten actually has a more immediate goal: playing a character for Disney.
"I want to be Tinkerbell," she said. "I look at the website, and it always has auditions two weeks out in New York, which would be hard to do. But they also hold auditions in Anaheim, and they are now casting their Christmas specials, so something might work out."
But in the meantime, before Duddlesten lands a show on Broadway or a gig at Disneyland, local audiences will be able to enjoy her first professional performance in "The Addams Family."