WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. − West Lafayette native Amanda Walker is not letting the parade pass her by.
Walker is pursuing her stage career at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Ill., most recently with her portrayal as Minnie Fay in the theater’s production of “Hello, Dolly!”
Walker, who was born and grew up in Greater Lafayette, has been performing in the Chicago area since 2019. With live shows just recently resembling a sense of normalcy since the COVID-19 pandemic, “Hello, Dolly!” is one of Walker’s first shows back on stage.
“I was born in the (Lafayette) area and was there my whole life,” Walker said. “…I live in Chicago (now) and I have on and off since 2019. Obviously, the pandemic kind of put things to a stop for a while, but I have been doing theater here in Chicago for the last couple years.”
COVID-19’s impact on the theater industry
As with many careers in the entertainment industry, Walker’s theater performances were put on a complete halt throughout the first half of the pandemic. It wasn’t until December 2021 that she was able to return to stage in the first place – in person at least.
“It was pretty tough for my industry in general, for the theater industry,” Walker said, “because, we couldn’t just go work from home, you know?…I graduated in 2019 and had about six months of what I felt like was really good momentum, things were getting exciting. And then, spring of 2020, the world shut down.”
After initial cancellations and putting performing on the back burner for the first few months of the pandemic, virtual performances eventually began picking up.
“There was a good period of time where I was not doing anything related to theater,” Walker said. “And I don’t think anybody really was, until eventually, we started figuring out virtual play readings and virtual rehearsals as most people did; turned to Zoom.”
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Omicron slows things down further
Just as things were looking up when Walker was able to do her first on-stage show in December 2021 with “Love Actually?,” a parody musical, some shows were canceled due to the influx of the Omicron variant around the holidays.
“I know people who I’m doing (“Hello, Dolly!” with) right now and for some people, this is the first show back ‘post-pandemic,'” Walker said. “Obviously we’re really not post. I got really lucky because I was able to do that show…and we did get shut down for 10 days because of that first wave of Omicron…
“(Theater) will never be the same again, which is pretty wild.”
Returning to the stage with ‘Elegance’
Now finally back on stage, “Hello, Dolly!” has provided what Walker is calling a “bright spot” for audiences to come and enjoy.
“‘Hello, Dolly!’ does not necessarily stand out as one of those (‘world-changing’) pieces of theater,” Walker said, “but it is necessary for other reasons. It’s just like such a bright spot in the world that we’re living in right now. So I was excited to have the opportunity (to perform in it).”
Walker states that she does not necessarily have any specific roles she wants to cross off her bucket list – save for a few overall shows – as she’s looking forward to seeing where the universe directs her next.
“I’m really loving comedy lately,” Walker said. “So I would love to do a play like ‘Boeing Boeing,’ or ‘The Play That Goes Wrong.’ They’re just silly, quick-paced comedies that I am super interested in. Otherwise I tend to let the industry, the universe, inform my dream roles as they come.”
One performer’s advice to another
When asked what advice she’d like to give to new or prospective stage performers, Walker focused on persevering through the current state of the entertainment industry.
“I certainly would not deter anyone from entering the industry because of the effects COVID have had on it,” Walker said. “It’s just a new way of doing things. It’s certainly not worse or better. Just in general, if you have the inkling and you have the resources to pursue it, I would say do it.”
“Hello, Dolly!” at the Marriott Theatre runs through Oct. 16. Learn more about the show at www.marriotttheatre.com/show/hello-dolly.