‘Waitress’ To Cast Local Talent in Very Special Part

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Susanna Wolk addresses a group of young actresses vying for a spot in "Waitress" the musical. Photo: Megan McLachlan

A queue of young actresses formed inside of the Trust Arts Education Center on Liberty Avenue for a role that required just one line—and a hug.

The musical Waitress comes to the Benedum Center March 6 through 11, and the national tour is enlisting some very special local talent.

“We are casting two local girls to join our company and be in the show with us,” said Susanna Wolk, Waitress associate director. The touring company is doing this in every city, and started in Cleveland, Ohio, back in October 2017. “I’m traveling the country hosting these local auditions.”

Susanna Wolk instructs Lilliana Pittaway during the audition process for “Waitress” the musical. Photo: Megan McLachlan

Needless to say, some of these 4 and 5-year-olds may be future Frances McDormands (the Oscar winner hails from Monessen, Pennsylvania). Lots of the little girls hoping to secure the role revealed that they got the acting bug from seeing The Nutcracker this past holiday season, and of course, Disney movies.

“I sing ‘Let It Go’ with [my friend] Brady,” said Harley Quinn Lokay, age 3, from Oakmont, clad in a shirt that reads ‘Hug Life.’

Lilliana Pittaway, age 4, from Beechview cited her own school as a place where she enjoyed performing. “We did a concert in school that was funny,” she said.

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Harley Quinn Lokay gets measured before the audition. Photo: Megan McLachlan

The audition process was casual and very supportive. Wolk would take each little girl into the movement room, one at a time. Each little girl is measured for height and asked a series of questions to warm up—what did they do today, when’s their birthday, do they like animals (one little girl revealed she loves giraffes because of their “really long necks”).

Then, Wolk asked them if they were ready to perform the line, which consisted of a phrase they probably say every day: “Hi, Mama!” Following the line, they were instructed to run to their pretend-mom (in this case, Katherine Lancaster, show marketing manager at the Trust), who would embrace them, lifting them in the air and twirling them around. After completing the process, the girls were met with high fives and applause, while others offered additional talents to sway the jury. Zaria-lee Currington, age 4, from the North Side, demonstrated that she knew how to skip.

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Zaria-lee Currington talks with Susanna Wolk about what she has to do in the scene. Photo: Megan McLachlan

Wolk said that while it’s only one line, the scene is an important one in the musical. “Lulu is the daughter of Jenna, our protagonist in the show. It’s a small but very pivotal role, and she comes out as this total beacon of joy and energy.”

And while they auditioned a number of girls, there were no boys allowed for this particular production.

“[The relationship] is part of the story, the mother-daughter connection,” said Wolk.

But that doesn’t mean that the daughter has to look like the “mother.” When it comes to a look, Wolk said it’s more about the general energy than resembling the actress portraying their on-stage mother.

The company will choose two actresses to play Lulu over the next couple of weeks, but tickets are already on sale for Waitress, March 6 through 11 at the Benedum Center.

“We’ve had amazing talent show up,” said Wolk. “I don’t know how I’m going to pick!”

To purchase tickets for one of the Pittsburgh performances of Waitress at the Benedum Center, please visit: https://trustarts.org/production/52184/waitress

Photos courtesy of Megan McLachlan.