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Getting To Know Fagin's Gang | An Interview Series | Feature #14 | Kayla Bress

Can you believe we only have two more features before we are completely done with our Oliver! interview series? We will be sad to be finished but so happy that all these amazing kids were able to be showcased during this production. Our second to last interview and today’s feature is on Kayla Bress. Kayla is 12 years old has really enjoyed being a part of this production of Oliver!. She told me, “Since this is my first time at the Greenville Theatre it’s different because I’ve always been at other theatres and I like having the opportunity to perform at different places.” She told me her favorite song to perform is "Consider Yourself" because, “It’s the first song that the orphans go around in and so it’s very hyped.” She told me, "After opening night, the applause was crazy for that song.” Kayla has had a lot of fun working with everyone. She told me, “It feels like I’ve been here a long time because of how close I have gotten with everyone in the cast.” Kayla told me that prior to our interview that afternoon, she had been sleeping in every day and getting almost 12 hours of sleep daily since her school was on spring break when we met for her interview. Since she was getting so much sleep she felt super ready to resume the show and begin our second weekend of shows!

Kayla has been interested in theatre for quite some time and has a good resume leading up to her appearance in Oliver!. It all started with school shows for Kayla when she attended Prince of Peace Catholic Church & School. There she was a part of their productions of Cinderella and Alice In Wonderland. She told me she had been in choirs before but decided to try out for theatre just looking for something to do. She is really quite the perfectionist and thought she would give the arts a shot. She actually told me a very interesting story about Cinderella. “We were in the background right before the show, messing around and I was jumping, mis-landed and broke my ankle. I didn’t know it broke it because I was in tights and I couldn’t see it. Then, because it’s Cinderella, we had to do a lot of ballroom dancing so I just kept going. I have learned from my mistake…” she said while laughing. Next up, Kayla started doing shows at the Greer Cultural Center. She was a part of Lion King Jr. and James and the Giant Peach Jr. as a member of the ensemble in both shows. Then, she played Mort in Madagascar and then performed in The Magic Tree House. She was in this show with Kyle Kerr, so already knew him pretty well when she joined the cast of Oliver!. In Magic Tree House they performed two books: Dinosaurs Before Dawn and then Pirates Past Noon and she played Jonah. Following these shows was Elf Jr. It was this production where she met Cohen Clark. In this show she got to play the head elf Charlie. Then, came her second time doing Alice in Wonderland Jr. where she played roles similar to the ones she had when she performed it at Prince Of Peace. By this time, Kayla had switched to Christ Church Episcopal School and then was in their production of Seussical where she played a Bird Girl. She told, “It’s really cool [doing shows

at school] because the theatre has an orchestra pit with a live orchestra and you go to school with people that are in the cast so you know everyone that is in the show.” Following Seussical, Kayla did her first show at South Carolina Children’s Theatre performing as Kowalski in Madagascar. She told me, “That was really cool because I got to see how the Gunther Theatre looked and I have learned how each theatre works- whether you can come out and meet people in costume after the show and whether you go to the lobby or the stage door to see people. It’s different at each theatre.” Next up was another production of Seussical back at the Greer Cultural Center where she played Mrs. Mayor. After this production, Kayla took a slight break due to foot pains that they learned was tendonitis and resulted in Kayla attending physical therapy. She had been cast in Oliver! by the time she started attending physical therapy and her mother chimed in saying, “We told the doctor she needed to be ready  and able to jump by the time rehearsals started, knowing how physically demanding Oliver! is.” Kayla is also currently in rehearsals for her school show at CCES as Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka Jr.  With so much going on at one time I asked Kayla how she managed her tendonitis pain day to day and in particular, show to show, performing in Oliver!. She told me, “Sometimes after big dance numbers I know I need to take a break. But since we are in bigger groups for most of Oliver! I have gotten used to working that way. Sometimes, I am in pain after a show but when I get home and rest it I’m usually okay. Plus, I have noticed I am better at balancing after doing therapy which helps.” 

When Kayla isn’t performing, the number one thing she loves to do is hang out with her friends. Her best friend has actually started performing and Kayla told me while smiling how happy she is that she has gotten another friend to fall in love with theatre. When I asked what else she likes to do she paused and said, “…well I don’t really have time to do anything else!” It’s true, a life in theatre can be quite time consuming! She really enjoys listening to musicals, and some of her favorites include Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Mean Girls. One of her dream roles in actually Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins because she told me she is such a cool role and on stage for a lot of the show. She also told me that she would love to be in the ensemble of Hamilton because all the actors work really hard and get to do a lot of quick changes and really cool things in the show.

I asked Kayla if she thought she would continue to do theatre for a long time. She told me yes that she would love to be an actor for a living but if she didn’t do theatre she also would be interested in being an engineer. As a perfectionist, Kayla is big on everything being straight, done correctly, and often won’t quit until something is absolutely perfect whether that be a math problem or a drawing in art class. This makes her mindset perfect for an engineer.  

I also learned something very surprising during this interview, Kayla is actually deaf in her right ear. She told me that it has really helped with her concentration since she has to work harder

to focus and keep up with others at school since she is only able to hear out of one ear. Kayla has been deaf in her right ear since birth, and it was first discovered by the doctors when she was in Kindergarten, though Kayla’s mother had figured it out with maternal intuition much earlier. “I tested it when she was little, speaking in one ear and then speaking in the other and realizing she only heard me through one.”  The doctors said that structurally everything is perfect within her right ear, but they believe it is a combination of nerves and the ear function that for some reason won’t allow her to hear. I asked Kayla how this affected her when performing, she said, “It really doesn’t affect me. I started at a point once when I didn’t know how to handle it - but I have learned and now it feels normal.” She told me her left ear has perfect hearing to make up for the loss of the right.  At school, she wears a CROS aid, which is hearing device that transfers the sounds that enter her right ear and aren’t processed to her left ear, kind of like a microphone sending sound to speakers. Her mother told me when they were picking out her CROS aid she had a choice of colors and her mother had suggested a more neutral one but Kayla insisted on it being purple, and her friends at school call it her “ear-bling.” She hopes to learn sign language in the future just to be safe, in case anything were to happen to her left ear. Kayla told me she doesn't feel different, and that has allowed her to adjust. Her mother pointed out how even the way Kayla was sitting for the interview indicated this. Kayla had chosen to sit on the side of me that allowed her dominate ear to be closest to me. She has simply learned to adapt, over-come, and continue to thrive as such a talented and hardworking young woman. 

I closed our interview as I do them all, by asking Kayla what word she would use to describe the show Oliver!. She told me, “Chaotic, because when you look on stage there is so much going on even while something important is still happening at the center.”

Well, we still have one more weekend of Oliver! so don’t miss out on this chaotic and epic musical playing for only 4 more performances. Give our box office a call today at 864-233-6238 to get your tickets before it’s too late! 

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