As she nears the end of her final year at North Texas Performing Arts Academy, Samantha Stratton recalls sitting in the backseat of her mom’s car as a young child, inserting a CD of her older siblings performing in The Drowsy Chaperone at North Texas Performing Arts Academy. She’d hit play over and over, never getting enough of the production.
Now, Stratton is in her final year at the academy herself, and preparing to play Janet in that very same musical.
Samantha Stratton is the youngest in a line of family actors. Both of her parents did theater throughout college, and passed on that passion to their three children, who all attended North Texas Performing Arts Academy.
“My brother had already started at NTPA when I was born because we’re six years apart, and [my family has] been there since my brother was five years old,” Stratton says. “So before I was even born, I was automatically going to go into this theater and so I kind of grew up here.”
Following in their footsteps, Stratton began taking classes at NTPA at five years old. Now, she’s a senior getting ready to graduate and move on to college.
“When I’m on the stage, it’s where my heart is,” Stratton says. “I have always loved it so much that I’m not going to stop. I’m already in the college audition process for musical theater. That’s really stressful but it will all be worth it in the end because I’ll get to go and train and practice my craft for four years and then go off and do it professionally.”
Tell me about The Drowsy Chaperone.
So it is a comedy show within a show. You watch a man tell the story about his favorite musical and the show comes to life in his apartment as he puts on his record of the show. While he’s listening to the record, the show is going on inside his apartment, obviously it’s not really there, but the audience can see what he is envisioning and seeing in his mind, and it’s such an overdramatic show.
Every character is very overemphasized and very comedic and dramatic – my character especially. And it’s so upbeat and lively and energetic. It’s a really good show to come to if you just want a great night at the theater. You can come here, watch the show and get so many laughs out of it. It’s such a good time and it’ll keep you in a positive mood.
I think what’s so special about it is it’s a comedy at heart but inside of the show. There’s a character who has a lot of depth and then he watches this show to make himself feel better. Something that an audience can take from this show when you’re feeling sad or you just kind of want to get out for a second, watching this show will make you feel a lot better and it’ll make you feel happy and just make you feel joyful inside. I think that’s the main thing theater is supposed to do.
What is your character, Janet, like?
Janet is a show girl who becomes engaged to a man the day that she meets him. They met in Paris and are at their wedding party, the weekend of the wedding. She’s a show girl, so she’s very dramatic and she plays everything up. What I think is so neat about her is she has a lot of real life feminine feelings. When you’re in love, you can never really tell if they really love you, especially if you get engaged to a man the same day you meet him. Not that I would know. A part of her pull is like, “Does he really love me? Should I just give up? Why am I giving up this thing that I’ve created? People know me because I’ve created this world of me being a show girl.”
How did you prepare for the role of Janet? Do the two of you have anything in common?
She is a different person than me on some levels, but not in the fact that she is a dramatic girl who loves the stage. It’s really fun to play that type of overdramatic, comedic role. I’m used to playing these very feminine and pretty roles, but I’m getting to play something super comedic and out of my comfort zone a little bit with the dancing and wearing the glamorous, more sexy costumes. It’s really fun. I really wanted to play this role and I’m very grateful and excited that I got to do it. It’ll be such a fun time. I work with the best scene partners and cast and just a creative team that makes it easy to go into rehearsal and be excited to play this role and do this show.
This is one of your last shows before graduating. How are you feeling about ending the year and moving on?
It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling. It’s kind of been bittersweet this whole year. I have a few more shows I do before I go off but this year has been so stressful on the college side. Because doing this audition process for colleges, it’s a stride, so I try to savor every moment that I can in these rehearsal rooms. I’ve been here for 12 years so I think part of me doesn’t really want to leave but they’ve prepared me so much for doing this. I’m at the spot where I’ve been trained enough to go out and do this and get the next level of training that I need to get. It’s more of me trying to do everything that I possibly have the time and energy to do because I think part of my brain doesn’t want it to go away. I know I’ll always have this place and these people but it’s never the same. So I think I’m just trying to savor every bit of time that I have left in these rooms and in these rehearsals because it’s my favorite place. And I never really want it to go away. But I’m super excited for the next chapter wherever I end up.
I’ve never met people more dedicated to what they do. I’ve never met people who care so much about the kids that they teach. It’s a wonderful environment. The biggest thing that I’ve realized as a teenager, especially getting ready to go off to college, is that if you have the right people behind you and supporting you that will make you successful. It’s the most kind environment. I’ve lived my life here. I come here and I go home to my wonderful family and that’s my day. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.