Process of elimination sent retiree Karen Fox to an acting class.
Her daughter had been urging her to stop playing it safe, to do something she’d never done. Fox couldn’t figure out what that might be.
“I wasn’t going skydiving, I wasn’t going to shoot a gun,” she said.
Daughter Krystal suggested a class at the Omaha Community Playhouse, and that seemed like a good fit, even though she’d never been onstage.
“The teacher was very encouraging and it was a lot of fun,” Fox said.
After the class ended, Krystal would send her mom audition notices for parts that seemed right. Fox secretly auditioned for “A Raisin in the Sun” at the Playhouse and won the role of Lena Younger, the matriarch of a South Side Chicago family in the 1950s. The Youngers have received an insurance payout they know can improve their lives, but are debating how to spend the money.
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Fox is portraying one of theater’s signature roles in her very first play. She said she went to the audition mainly because she fit the age range.
“There are not a lot of parts for people in their 60s, women especially,” she said.
She’s having a blast and furthering her theater education with director Tyrone Beasley, who said he chose her over more experienced actors because she “bowled me over” at a callback. He’s been encouraging her to act naturally.
“I have surprised myself how, when I’m in the part, sometimes I’m saying these words and doing that acting, but it feels like it’s real,” she said. “When I’m done, people around me, my co-actors, are really complimentary and so supportive.”
She said she was bowled over herself when she got the role.
“Here I am, 61 years old, and I’m acting like a 12-year-old when I got the part. I thought she was going to let me down easy when I first got the call,” Fox said. “I’m a little nervous, but confident. My co-actors have been very helpful.”
The show opens Friday on the Playhouse mainstage and runs through Feb. 9.