Fall 2017 / by Dave Dentel
Though not exactly dying to start a film career, Abigail Parker Brown did recently use her hard-earned acting skills to play dead.
The otherwise lively homeschooled seventeen-year-old donned pale makeup and a lifeless expression as an extra in a B-movie shooting near her home in North Carolina. It was, admittedly, an unglamorous part. Abigail’s mom, Christina Brown, recalls rendezvousing with the film crew in “not the best part of town.” It was a good experience for Abigail, who recently signed with the talent agency JTA.
A veteran stage performer since age nine, Abigail hopes her brief appearance on camera leads to opportunities to earn money as an actress.
“I’d really love to do this professionally,” she said.
Abigail’s big break came last summer when she competed in a talent showcase in Orlando, Florida, and won best overall actress for her performances in commercial, improvisation, and film scenes. It was this success that helped her close the deal with an agent.
Her mother recalls feeling extremely proud and even a little surprised at Abigail’s achievement.
“[Taking first place] was a really big deal,” Christina said, pointing out that her daughter was one of several hundred contestants at the Florida event. “Even as her biggest fans, we were floored that she won.”
Her daughter’s innate enchantment with the performing arts began quite early, Christina reflected. At age four, Abigail attended a community college production of Annie and came home transfixed. She had to have more.
“I remember later watching the movie version over and over,” Abigail said. “I think I was just mesmerized by how magical it was. I watched it so much I actually broke the VHS tape. Mom had to get another one.”
Presenting an American Girl
Abigail’s acting debut came about five years later in a family-run production sparked by serendipity. During one of her mother’s frequent visits to yard sales, Abigail explained, they discovered an American Girl theater kit for the play, Check Under the Bed—scripts, poster, and twenty tickets included. Billed as a spooky mystery, the drama deals with the search for a lost check.
“I cast all my friends in it and made my mom do it,” Abigail said. “It was so much fun.”
According to Christina’s blog post recounting the event, it also required a lot of work. After securing a local church as a venue, two other homeschooling moms helped with directing, sound, props, and rehearsals.
Since then, Abigail has honed her acting skills through numerous classes, camps and symposiums, Gavel Club (a public speaking group for youths), and even YouTube videos. She credits homeschooling with providing her the flexibility to pursue her passion for drama.
“It’s given me so much freedom,” said Abigail. “As long as I do my schoolwork, I can go to an audition in the middle of the day. It’s also given me a lot of ways to learn. I think it’s taught me how to interact with different people, which I would not have learned if I was with my peers.”
Looking to the Future
Abigail said she has also discovered that, given the choice of lead roles, she’d rather play the antagonist. Having to portray a touch of villainy in a character, she explained, “is so much more fun, and you get to learn so much more.”
One of her favorite performances was as Sharpay Evans, the pink-loving drama queen who lords it over her classmates in the High School Musical series. During their local production at the Spotlight Performing Arts Academy, Abigail said, “there was a fun scene where my friend smears a cupcake in my face, and it gets all over the stage.” For now, Abigail plans to concentrate on her senior year of high school while taking classes and pursuing professional development through Acting Out Studio.
She’s also hunting for the right college, and hoping for one that will offer her a scholarship to study film and musical theater. Meanwhile, she has this advice for other homeschool students interested in acting: “Just get involved. A lot of times it’s scary auditioning for the first time,” said Abigail. Even if you don’t get the part, “you still learn so much. Just keep trying.”