by Zoe Williams
Oscar Williams, a longtime FlynnArts student and member of the Flynn’s Junior Show Choir, was recently cast in the Broadway production of Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel. His mother shares his journey from theater-loving kid to Broadway actor.
I’m writing this from New York City, where my son Oscar is in rehearsals for Fun Home on Broadway. Looking back on how we got here, I feel so thankful for this wonderful community, full of people and organizations that nurtured Oscar and made this possible.
Oscar’s first theater experience, at age seven, was a Very Merry Theater summer camp. He loved it and wanted more. The Flynn was offering local kids a chance to audition to be Munchkins in the National Tour of The Wizard of Oz, so Oscar tried out. He wasn’t cast. It was his first experience dealing with the rejection that comes with this business, and he wanted to learn from it. Christina Weakland, the Flynn’s director of education, suggested that Oscar could use some dance training in order to pick up movement quickly in an audition setting. He had been singing in the Essex Children’s Choir but had little dance experience, so Oscar began studying dance, enrolling in Lois Trombley’s class and a FlynnArts acting class.
The Flynn’s classes and camps facilitated his growth as a young performer, with great advice, guidance, and even unexpected opportunities. For example, Christina recommended Oscar to a local production company looking for children for a TV commercial. Oscar booked the commercial and has been doing commercials ever since. He continued gaining stage experience with Very Merry, took private dance classes with Kate Whalen, and voice lessons with Bill Reed.
In January 2013, Oscar auditioned for Lyric’s Oliver. He was cast as an orphan, and while excited to do a Lyric show he was also deeply disappointed that he wasn’t called back for the role of Oliver. I was talking about this with the parent of another Oliver orphan, Rebecca Raskin, who empathized with Oscar’s disappointment and told me a story that became important to our lives.
Rebecca’s older daughter Amelia Mason, along with several Flynn Junior Show Choir students, had auditioned for the Broadway production of Matilda. Unexpectedly, Amelia had gotten very close to being cast, making it to final callbacks three different times
(which was a total of 13 callbacks) and was even considered for the title role! But in the end, she wasn’t cast. Rebecca talked me through the disappointment they felt and how they dealt with it. It seemed an uplifting story to share with Oscar to help him process his own sadness. His response was, “Wait . . . are you saying you can live in Vermont and audition for Broadway?” That wasn’t what I was saying, but Oscar now had a new goal: he was determined to audition for
a Broadway show!
We wanted to support our son but knew nothing, so I looked for Broadway open auditions and found one for The Lion King. Hundreds of kids shuttled through, and nothing came of that. He auditioned for two more shows, but still, nothing. Soon Matilda was re-casting, a show we knew would involve strenuous dance, and we weren’t sure Oscar was prepared. We spoke with Christina, who knew a New York City dance coach that could help with the specific style used in the Matilda audition. He was hooked! We got him a manager and an agent, and auditioning for Broadway shows became a regular part of our schedule. Constant rejection is part of the process. Keeping up with positive performance opportunities and training at home was very important. In addition to all his lessons, he joined the Flynn’s Junior Show Choir and flourished in that environment.
The summer of 2013, Saint Michael’s Playhouse put on a production of Fiddler on the Roof, and Oscar was cast. He loved the experience of his first professional show, and it probably helped him get cast in a New York gala benefit concert for Fiddler’s 50th anniversary with the original Broadway and film cast, and creative teams—his first time singing on an NYC stage.
With lots of auditions now under his belt, Oscar won a few roles in local productions, including Stowe Theatre Guild’s Secret Garden, and the title role in Middlebury Community Players’ Oliver. At the same time, things in New York were starting to click:
he was consistently making it to final callbacks for Broadway shows.
Then in November, at age 11, Oscar was offered the role of Christian in the exciting new Broadway musical Fun Home. He was overjoyed!
Through all of this we found the classes and opportunities offered through the Flynn to be a strong foundation for Oscar. We are so lucky to live in a community that cares about fostering the arts so much. It takes a village and without all of the caring and nurturing educators, Oscar would not be where he is today.
When he is done with his time on stage on Broadway he will eagerly return to the Flynn community that he calls home!
Registration for Summer FlynnArts classes and camps is open now.