I’ve written a lot about performing, and touring from my perspective, but I thought it would be fun to hear from one of our younger cast members, Maria Knasel, who plays Louisa in The Sound of Music. Maria has a lot of experience performing and touring, and is one of the sweetest Theater Cats I know, so I thought it would be fun and interesting to learn about how she juggles being a professional actress with high school, friends, and her favorite hobby, memorizing all of the lyrics to Hamilton!
PS: How long have you been performing, and what are some of your favorite roles and shows?
MK: When I was 7 I did my first professional show, and when I was 9 I played Gretl at the the MUNY, so that’s one of my favorite roles. White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Billy Elliot were my other national tours - those are also my favorites.
PS: How did you hear about auditions for The Sound of Music?
MK: I was in Washington D.C. for my 8th grade class trip and my mom texted me and said there’s an equity call for The Sound of Music, do you want to go? I said sure, but you’re going to have to pick me up! So she flew to D.C., flew me to New York, and I auditioned! I heard from my agent 3 weeks later saying that I’d gotten the role!
PS: What was your audition process like?
MK: We were asked to prepare a 16 bar cut from a song of our choice, and we also picked from “Do Re Mi,” “So Long, Farewell,” or “My Favorite Things.” I did “My Favorite Things” - we did an audition cut of that, and were never asked to sing our own song. Then we were all given the lines from the opening scene with our character names and everything, and then we were also given a separate scene to read, specific to our character. We did a bunch of rounds of that until they narrowed it down.
PS: How does school work on the road?
MK: We do about 3- 4 hours of school work a day, usually 5 days a week. We come in, usually to the theater, and we have all of our books in a big box that the company travels for us. We come in, and I do online school, so all my work is on my laptop, and I just sit down and do my work straight through for 4 hours. Sometimes we have homework, sometimes we don’t, but we have due dates that we have to get everything done by.
PS: I’ve explained a little bit about how guardians work on the road, but who do you have as your tour chaperone?
MK: My mom usually comes once a month for about a week at a time, and when she’s not here, me and Lucas, who is the boy swing, alternate guardians. One week his mom will be both of our guardians and one week my mom will be both of our guardians. But that also changes - right now I have my Uncle on tour with me, I’ve also had friends, friends of friends, parent’s friends who I haven’t even met, but I know of, who come to chaperone me.
PS: What have been some of your favorite field trips on tour?
MK: In LA we were lucky enough to go to Disneyland as a field trip! We weren’t going to be able to go because of school hours, so they gave us a break and counted it as a field trip so that we could go. That was definitely one of the best ones - and the Georgia Aquarium - that was really fun. We did the Coca Cola Museum after that. Oh! And also in LA, we got to do a little aquarium that was right on the beach and then stayed, and counted the beach as our field trip!
PS: Can you break down how understudy rehearsal and warm ups work?
MK: So for warm up before the show, we come in at half hour call, and we have 5 minutes to change in to either our robe or our costume, then we have vocal warm ups for 10 minutes. We run some of the songs in the show that have a lot of harmonies, or the tough ones that we need to work on, and we also do regular warm ups. Sometimes we do clapping rhythms, and we’re actually learning to read music now. Cathy, our associate conductor, is our warm up leader, and makes us music cards to study. Then for understudy rehearsals, it’s about once a month for the kids. We come in and run the show straight through. I get to play Brigitta sometimes, and we all kind of switch around parts based on who we play and understudy.
PS: Have you been able to make friends on the tour?
MK: Some of my best friends I’ve made on tours. I’ve kept in touch with all my friends from the past tours, and I know that I’m going to really want to see, and keep up with my friends from this tour.
PS: What do you miss most about home?
MK: My dogs. And I’ve found that I really miss having a place to live with separate floors. When we were in Florida my family rented a house and I loved having my room upstairs and being able to go downstairs to where the kitchen and couch and everything else was. And when I go home, I love having my own space upstairs, then coming downstairs to where all the family stuff was, instead of one room for everything. I play the ukulele so it was really fun to go home and be able to do that without worrying about bothering the neighbors or anything. And I also miss my home cooked food… and local chains. We have a roast beef chain called Lines Choice and it’s my favorite after school snack. So I miss that… and of course my friends.
PS: What’s your favorite thing about performing in this show?
MK: My favorite thing is that I’ve made so many great friends on this tour, and getting to perform with them every night is amazing. And I love all the stage time that we have, and all of the great numbers and harmonies that we get to do. I've never really been in a show that has a ton of music and harmonies that the kids get to do. Usually it’s either dancing, or ensemble stuff. It’s really fun to be able to do it with all my friends.
RAPID FIRE: Getting to know The Sound of Music’s Maria Knasel
Age I'm 14 (15 on May 9th)
Grade I'm currently in 9th grade
Hometown I'm from St. Louis
Middle Name Suzanne
Travel day pastime
I usually listen to Hamilton over and over to memorize more lyrics, or I watch movies with my friends.
Pre show rituals
The boys and I do 25 push-ups and a 4 min plank for fun- and sort of a competition.
And we also have our warm up with Cathy. In the wings before I go on, the boys and I, who are on the other side do the "I don't wanna be a chicken, I don't wanna be a duck" dance, and Mackenzie and I whip & nae-nae. And Donna (who plays Frau Schmidt) and I do squats while on opposite sides of the stage… I didn't realize I had so many pre show rituals!
Post show snack
If I'm hungry after the show, I'm usually craving chocolate. Or if I want a meal, 24 hour diners are where it's at.
#1 travel essential
Besides my phone, my #1 travel essential is packing squares! I love them so much, it makes packing and unpacking so much easier because shirts are in one compartment, shorts in another etc.
Makeup or beauty must have
Because of late nights, and semi early mornings for school, I wear no makeup at all, because that requires getting ready earlier than I have to. Head bands and bobby pins are my best friends since I just wake up and pull back my fly aways and go to school.
Favorite musical is currently Hamilton, but before that came around, it was Hairspray and In The Heights.
My favorite TV show is Criminal Minds, and Say Yes To The Dress. And of course Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Funny onstage mishap for me was when I fell up the stairs, and when the nazi banner fell over me a few times.
My dream role is Mary in the secret garden, or the narrator in Joseph because I love the music in both of those shows. And I would love to be in Hamilton, however I'm white, and that is a completely ethnic cast except for 2 women in the ensemble, so my chances are slim.
I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into Maria's life on tour. I have loved getting to know her by playing her older sister. She is always kind, calm, ready for fun, and inclusive... not to mention awesomely talented! She holds a very special place in my heart, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!