By Heather Lusk
Claire Kaufman is about to appear in her third production of “Annie” within the past year, but this time she’ll play the lead in full-length professional theater at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.
She’ll share the stage with friend Anna Wagner, whom she met when they played orphans in Carmel’s Civic Theater production of “Annie” in fall 2017.
“It’s pretty crazy because there were only a couple of us that got in (at Beef & Boards),” Kaufman said. “And, of course, we were the orphans that have the same birthday.”
The Zionsville residents recently turned 12 and celebrated their birthdays together. This will be Wagner’s first professional production, but Claire got a taste for professional theater and a more grueling schedule in “Peter Rabbit” at the IRT.
“I’m glad that I have a little head-start,” Kaufman said.
Wagner and Kaufman will perform 46 shows of “Annie” from May 31 to July 15.
“I feel like it’s going to go really fast, though,” Wagner said.
Despite the busy schedule, Kaufman and Wagner look forward to spending spend time with the new friends they’ll make.
“The thing is that we get to hang out with our (school) friends every day,” Kaufman said. “The people (like Anna) you don’t see that often you get to hang out with.”
Wagner has been cast as Pepper, one of the older and tougher orphans. Sadie Cohen from Carmel also is part of the cast. The girls portraying orphans range in age from 8 to 13 and come from as far as Crawfordsville and Kokomo.
“Anytime we use local talent we’re always blown away by the level of talent we see,” said Eddie Curry, Beef & Boards’ artistic director.
Curry said the theater typically casts young local talent instead of bringing in performers because of logistical costs, but also because of central Indiana’s deep talent pool.
During auditions, Kaufman and Wagner said they felt nervous seeing other children with extensive theatrical experience.
“I was like, ‘These girls are so professional,’” Kaufman said.
While waiting for cast assignments, the girls were tasked with learning all lines and songs on their own before diving into two weeks of rehearsals prior to opening night.
Although she portrayed Annie a few months ago in an abbreviated version of Zionsville Middle School’s production, Kaufman has had to learn many new elements of the role.
“There’s actually more songs in the original one, more lines,” Kaufman said.
She’s been helped by her sister, Cynthia Kaufman, who is an actress and student at Zionsville Community High School. Cynthia has been part of the Beef & Boards famil, having been an understudy to the Wednesday Adams character in “The Adams Family” several years ago.
Cynthia also inspired humility in her sister.
“I want to be the person who pushes others to try their best,” Claire Kaufman said. “I don’t like bragging because people don’t like it.”