Artist Spotlight: Amanda Thomas

Bill Amos, Assistant Life, Art and Entainment Editor

The performing arts lead us down many paths and allow us to live a multitude of lives vastly different from our own.
Amanda Thomas, a senior musical theater major at Wilkes University discussed exactly what it is like to live lives from across such a diverse spectrum.
Thomas’s theatrical career began with a unusual career interest that many marvel at, but few are able to realize.
“I told my father I wanted to be a secret agent when I was a little girl,” Amanda Thomas chuckled.
After confirming to her father that perhaps a life in the clandestine operations wasn’t quite for her, she began to ponder why it seemed so glamorous in the first place.
“I was convinced that I was going to be one and that only happened because of the movie Spy Kids.”
She explained that Spy Kids, a long with the entire Disney library of films, was among her favorites when she was young.
She reminisced that perhaps that that was what appeared so intriguing about wanted to be a secret agent.
“It was the ability to pretend to be someone else and trick people into believing that that was who you were.”
And so it was goodbye Spy vs. Spy and hello footlights and center stage.
Thomas followed her dream of becoming an actress to theaters across the valley, performing at Pennsylvania Theater of Performing Arts in Hazleton, PA, The Little Theater of Wilkes-Barre, The Phoenix Performing Arts Centre in Duyrea, and The Grove Theater in Nuangola.
Throughout her career she has played roles that ranged from Tracy Turnblud in the popular musical Hairspray, Dr. Emmett in the comedy The Curious Savage, and will soon fill the shoes of Margaret White, the titular character’s overbearing mother in the dark musical Carrie based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King.
“As much as I loved that show,” Thomas said about Hairspray.  “I was a teenaged girl who sings and dances, playing a teenaged girl who sings and dances. So I could have a lot of fun with it but it wasn’t a lot of acting as much as it was learning songs, memorizing my lines and putting on a show.”
While attending, her performance as Dr. Emmett in the Curious savage proved to be unique because the role was originally intended for a male actor.
“The play took place in a time when there really weren’t any female doctors, so we had to kind of rewrite history a bit to make it work.”
Thomas explained that she had to create a backstory for Dr. Emmett that as fitting for a woman at that time in history to succeed in a medical career, and though the audience may not have been privy to the details, they helped her to create a character that the public could relate to.
Most recently she performed as one of the many female characters in All the King’s Woman and in November she will play Carrie’s mother in Carrie the Musical, a role the Thomas expresses a great deal of interest and excitement to begin developing.
“I read the script over the summer and absolutely loved it,” she said.
“Margaret is the overly protective and overly religious mother who is a little crazy.”
You might wonder how someone can juggle three completely different characters and create them to stand apart as far as possible without making them too similar to one another.
Thomas said that she begins first by examining the smallest and most relatable feeling whether it’s fear or anger.
“I find that point of where the character and go back in my life and find something in my own life that made me feel whatever that character is feeling.”
She said that finding that common ground between herself and the character helps you to develop the role in order to portray it in the most sincere and honest way possible.
Thomas pointed out that though the themes of Carrie and Hairspray are unique in their own way, the more you read and the more you pay close attention you see that there are similarities beneath the surface in the sense that both plays portray a mother-daughter relationship wherein the little girl wants branch out beyond the limitations set upon her by her somewhat controlling parents.  Each story is told in it’s own way however.
“Sometimes you can’t do in all on your own, though.  Sometimes you need some input from the director or your choreographer as to how a role can be played.  That sort of thing is important to playing a character because the director has a vision as well and it’s your job as the actor to realize that vision.  It’s definitely a collaborative effort.”
Amanda Thomas is scheduled to graduate in December and is currently researching various institutions, including Ithaca College and NYU Steinhardt, where she plans to earn her graduate degree and then pursue a career in the performing arts.
“People ask me what my major is,” she said.  “When I tell them it’s musical theater they ask me what my back-up plan is.  I don’t have one.”
She spoke confidently in her decision and explained that she doesn’t need a back-up plan because musical theater is exactly what she plans to do.
“My goal is to live comfortably enjoying what I do for a living no matter where my profession takes me, whether it Broadway, film, or an equity house somewhere.  It’s what I’m going to do because that’s what I love.”
Thomas’s love of the performing arts began as a little girl when her mother took her to auditions with various theater companies including the Music Box in Swoyersville and Major Performing Arts where she auditioned for the production of Annie.
Amanda Thomas also attributed her loveof the arts and musical theater to her grandmother, whom she said had a beautiful singing voice and inspired her to pursue a musical career, along with Oscar Award-Winner Meryl Streep and comedians like the late Robin Williams, who’s exceptional talents have remained influential throughout her life.
She attributes the person has become, in part, to her involvement with Community Theater, where she learned that you have the potential to grow into an experienced professional.
Amanda Thomas shows regret about the choice she has made to become a professional in the performing arts and firmly believes that she is exactly where she is meant to be an doing what she is meant to do.