Part of the fun and challenge of raising children is that we parents are constantly reminded that, despite the fact we pass on our genes to these little people who spend years under our roofs, our children develop their own passions, which are often very different from our own. A perfect example is 8-year-old Reno resident Mya Dunlap. Last year, just for fun, Mya auditioned for a part in a performance of the Sierra School of Performing Arts. Her mom, Shannon Dunlap, who owns the Soak Nail Spa and Lounge in Reno, has never been interested in being on stage, and Mya’s twin brother Jay doesn’t express any interest either. But that audition ignited a passion in Mya.
The audition garnered Mya the role of Gretl, the youngest daughter in The Sound of Music, in SSPA’s performance of “Broadway Bits” last year.
According to Sierra School of Performing Arts Director Janet Lazarus, “She stole the show. Not only can she sing, dance and act like a professional, she is adorable and loaded with charisma.”
After watching her in her Broadway Bits performance this year, I have to agree. Since I had never met her before seeing the show, I was curious whether I would be able to identify her among the crowd on stage. I didn’t need to worry. Right away it was clear that she was the little sprite with the gap-toothed ear-to-ear grin. While she was the shortest person on stage, she was so full of spunk and energy that she could not be missed.
A stage is not required to light up this kid. During our interview after the show—and just the fact that you can interview an 8-year-old and actually still call it an interview is surprising enough—she was so full of energy and light that the dark hallway outside the theater seemed brighter. After telling me that she has been taking voice lessons and will perform at a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald Houses, she proceeded to belt out a few lines from a song from Darn Yankees, before moving into a nice rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”
“I take acting seriously,” Mya says. “I really like it. Someday I want to play Maria in The Sound of Music. And then maybe American Idol.”
Her mom looks at me, shaking her head, still in shock that her little daughter has somehow transformed before her eyes into a composed actress.
It’s a good thing Mya has a fire for acting, because if you are going to be in the theater, you need it. There are long hours of rehearsals, sometimes 12 hours over a weekend, and lots of lines to memorize—which she says she would rather do then homework.
But perhaps all this juggling of work and getting Mya to practice sessions is worth it for Shannon when her smallest kid proudly exclaims, “I love being on stage. My light can shine. It all really happens up on stage.”
What does a young actress do for fun when she is not practicing? Aside from playing with her brother and skiing, she watches every musical she can get her hands on and listens to Broadway show tunes “24-seven.”
Shannon shrugs, smiles and says, “It’s her thing.”
Torn between incredible pride in her daughter, and an eagerness to protect her from a passion that is challenging, competitive and often leads to heartbreak, all she can do is what the rest of us are doing: watch in amazement and wish her the best.
To see Mya Dunlap or the rest of the talented young actors and actresses of the Sierra School of Performing Arts in action, be sure and catch one of their performances. Learn more at www.sierraschoolforperformingarts.org.