January 20, 2016
By Tommy Benson '17
College of Saint Benedict graduate Kayla Parker '14 has strived to be Mary Poppins every day in the classroom. Now, she is doing that on stage as well.
Parker, a general music and choir teacher at Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph, Minnesota, is starring in the GREAT Theatre production of "Mary Poppins," based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film.
The show, which opened Jan. 15, continues its run at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21-23, and 2 p.m. Jan. 23-24 at Escher Auditorium, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB.
"Playing Mary Poppins is an absolute blast. It is nothing like I expected, yet 100 times better," Parker said. "As a teacher, I am always trying to find the balance between being loved and respected, and Mary Poppins has that in her interactions with the Banks children. It has been a lot of work, but has been so rewarding."
Parker, a native of Denver who majored in music at CSB, seems almost tailor-made for this role.
"I heard that GREAT Theatre was doing Mary Poppins last March and just couldn't stop thinking about how much fun it would be," Parker said. "I have loved both the movie and the stage production for a long time and I was convinced that Mary Poppins would be the perfect role. I had never been involved with GREAT before this, so I was a bit hesitant to audition, but my fiancé, Kevin Jennissen ('14), helped to prepare me and we auditioned together."
Parker is certainly no stranger to the bright lights of the stage. As a student at CSB, Parker performed in such productions as "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," "Gianni Schicchi," "Oedipus Tex" and "Dido and Aeneas."
"With each production I learned more and more about myself and performance. However, I was prepared the most by my voice teacher Carolyn Finley (professor of music at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University). Carolyn pushed me to become better, and was constantly teaching me, but more than anything else she helped me to develop a confidence in myself. Before CSB and before studying with Carolyn, there is no chance I would have been able to take on a role of this size," Parker said.
The production is being put on by the Great River Educational Arts Theatre (GREAT), which seeks to create "meaningful experiences for artists and audiences of all ages." The performance is 150 minutes. Tickets are $28 for adults, $18 students and $22 for seniors over 60, military members and educators.
Tickets are available through the BAC Box Office.