On paper, Peyton Young's rehearsal schedule for the Goodman Theatre's upcoming production of A Christmas Carol comes across as an endurance test that could tire someone out just reading it.
For the past three weeks, the Lincoln-Way East High School junior has traveled to downtown Chicago after school from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays to run through her role as Martha Cratchit. Then it's back home to do school work. And don't forget the 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. weekend rehearsal sessions.
But when you actually hear Peyton talk about her routine, the daunting schedule goes from exhausting to energizing. Peyton's enthusiasm is absolutely contagious.
"It's so much fun," the Mokena resident said. "I've made so many friendships with the cast. It's awesome. … I wake up in the morning and go, 'Oh, I have work today! Oh yes!' And I'll be sad that we have Mondays off."
Much of Peyton's excitement about working at the Goodman stems from her self-proclaimed love for acting. Ask her to talk about how she gets into a character, and she describes — with a smile — how she gathers up her stuffed animals to watch Disney movies so she can "do childish things to open up my imagination."
"I love creating that life, that reality, of that one character and just bringing it to everyone's eyes," Peyton said. "It's definitely an interesting process."
As fun as that is though, it's not her main motivation for continuing to act, she says.
"I love to take (the members of the audience) out of their reality for a little bit and bring them somewhere where they can forget everything that's bothering them, just to be somewhere else for a while," Peyton said.
Gaining experience at a young age
Peyton is only 16, but she's practically a veteran when it comes to working on the stage. Her first role was as an angel in fourth grade at Mokena Intermediate School, and she's gone on to perform in a variety of productions at Lincoln-Way East as well as All About Music & Children's Theater in Mokena. Last year, she had her first professional acting role in a production of A Christmas Carol at Oak Brook's Drury Lane.
That wealth of acting experience is something that hasn't been lost on her Christmas Carol cast mates. Christine Sherrill, who plays Mrs. Cratchit, has been impressed with the maturity Peyton displays, onstage and off.
"It's taken me a while as an adult actor to hone my skills at being truthful and being present on stage," said Sherrill, a St. Charles resident who also performed in the Goodman's production of A Christmas Carol last year. "I would like to think that those skills took a lot of experience over time. But Peyton is someone who already possesses that. There's not real acting with her. Nothing is put on. Nothing seems disingenuous."
In fact, it was Peyton's natural approach to her acting that won her the role in the production.
"(A Christmas Carol director) William Brown and I immediately saw an innocence and openness about Peyton that we felt would work beautifully for Martha Cratchit," said Adam Belcuore, casting director for the Goodman. "It is unusual to find an actress of Peyton's age with such moving presence."
Hard work for a bright future
Peyton's resume hasn't jaded her to the experience of working at the Goodman, which she says is on a different level than anything she's done before. If anything, she's found it's not easy juggling the grueling schedule of being part of a major off-Broadway Chicago production as well as that of a high-school student. And it won't get any easier when she's performing as many as nine shows a week when the production begins Nov. 19.
"It's definitely really hard. It's a lot of focus," Peyton said. "I'll bring homework during rehearsal, and whenever I have down time, I'll do it there. For some reason, I find that I do a little bit better when I'm under a little bit of pressure so I'm doing OK so far keeping my grades up. I hope it stays that way once the shows start."
As for her future in performing, Peyton says she plans to study theater and acting in college and continuing to audition for as many parts as she can. But Sherrill, her Christmas Carol cast mate, says that might be selling Peyton's talent short.
"I wouldn't be surprised if she would go off to college and pursue several things and be successful at all them," Sherrill said. "She seems to be that type of person."
'A Christmas Carol'
When: Shows runs Nov. 19 through Dec. 31
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago
More info: Visit the Goodman's website for show times and ticket information