Stanton — Brent Hull was on a plane to Jamaica with his wife Wendy when he received the email. He was the note announcing that he had been cast in ShenanArts’ production of “The Sound of Music.” What made the news endlessly good was that her 7-year-old daughter, Sawyer, also got a role. It will be her first time playing.
Brent has appeared in many musicals before, but has never performed with a child of his own. He has two older children of his, but neither of them liked acting, so they didn’t get a chance to act together. Now, at Sawyer Jane, he gets that chance and calls it his bucket his list his item.
“I did a little happy dance when I found out we were both cast,” he said.
It was also special for Wendy. During the summer of 6, she watched The Sound of Music with her brother every day. When they grew up, Wendy’s family traveled to Austria and her mother once went to the von Trapp home in Stowe, Vermont.
“Music and dancing and the kids there,” said Wendy. “The one thing that really got us was the musical and the movie.”
So yeah, it’s special to have Brent on stage with Sawyer Jane in the play Wendy grew up on.
Just two weeks after Sawyer Jane was born in October 2015, she was rushed to the emergency room with a fever and blood in her stool. What followed over the next few months was pure hell for the family. They were told it might be cancer, but it wasn’t. However, it turned out not to be true.
At one point, the family was asked to say goodbye to their newborn daughter, as they weren’t expected to survive a trip to the University of Virginia hospital. During that time, no one was sure how long she would live, so she was baptized.
It wasn’t until December that Hulls was finally diagnosed. At two months old, she had two hemangiomas. It was a noncancerous tumor that was dangerous because it was located near her spine and in her intestines. Her family still had a long way to go, but the treatment finally worked.
Sawyer Jane is now a healthy first grader at Crymore Elementary. and he is an actor. She is Marta von Trapp and is the second youngest of the musical von Trapp children.
“She’s very kind to other people. For example, she’s one of the kindest siblings,” Sawyer-Jane said of her character. “She’s not really wild.”
Her biological father, Brent, is also a stage father and is cast as Captain Georg von Trapp.
Wendy said she works behind the scenes and thought that if her husband and kids were at the ShenanArts Theater every night, she might as well join in. .
“Help me put my clothes away and get dressed every day,” said Wendy. And he has a lot of costumes, and there are 9 kinds of changing clothes.
The Jennifer Vaughan-directed musical will run March 10-12 and March 17-19 at Shennan Arts’ Stanton Theater at 300 Churchville Road.
The story follows Maria as she takes a job as a tutor for the von Trapp family while deciding whether to become a nun. She brings music and joy to her home, but as Nazi forces take hold in Austria, Maria and her von Trapp family must make a moral decision.
Wendy Hull passed on her love for The Sound of Music to her daughter, but that’s not the only musical the 7-year-old enjoys. She likes her Disney Channel musicals, such as “Zombies” and “Descendants,” but she also likes other musicals that aren’t for kids: Sawyer Her Jane.
She recently saw “Clue” at Fort Defiance High School. She saw “Mama Mia” last weekend. She likes “The Pirates of Penzance” and “Matilda”.
“We were watching ‘Hamilton’ as a family,” Brent said. “I hadn’t seen it before. It probably should have been screened before the first line of play.”
Sawyer Jane auditioned for the play singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” She admits she was quite nervous.
“I just did what the director told us, and it calmed me down a bit,” she said. “But I was still really nervous. My stomach was going up and down. I did.”
Nervous or not, she passed the audition. She was with her grandmother when she found out that Sawyer Jane was in her play.
“I was very excited, but also a little nervous,” she said. “But now I’m very excited.”
Brent said he’s been very honest about Sawyer-Jane’s health issues. They met families whose children did not survive while in the hospital.
This is ShenanArts Tech Week, the final week of preparations for opening night. That means midnight, and the first grader wakes up two hours before her bedtime. She doesn’t mind it, but this week she found one thing she doesn’t care about — the microphone, or more precisely, the tape used to secure it to the performer.
“Oh, tape,” she said. “I don’t like it coming off. It sticks and hurts a lot when I take it off.”
But it’s worth it. Sawyer Jane said she can’t wait for opening night. And having her dad on stage with her makes it that much better.
“I am really happy,” she said.
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— Patrick Hite is a reporter for The News Leader. Story ideas and hints are always welcome. Contact Patrick (him/him/him) at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Patrick HaitSubscribe at newsleader.com.