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creation story: Emlyn Crenshaw, actor

The hardest part for me is trying not to laugh when the jokes come.

How she started acting: When she was just a toddler Emlyn discovered her love for playing dress-up. When she was in kindergarten, she began exploring this interest on a more serious level with the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community. At age 6, she won her first role in Theatre IV's "Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

"I've always liked being different characters and stuff," she says. "I used to dress up as Ariel and Pocahontas. I have always liked trying to be another person."

Her most recent roles: Emlyn has played Downy the Duckling in Theatre IV's "Honk!," was a dwarf in Theatre IV's "Snow White" at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen and was in the chorus of "Gypsy" at the University of Richmond in the fall. This summer, she plans to act in SPARC's production of "Hello Dolly!"

Her part in "Ruthless": Emlyn plays the role Tina Denmark, every stage mother's worst nightmare. "My outside is sweet, but to get what I want I kill everyone," she explains. "I kill a friend for a part in a school show, and later on I kill my mother."

What she likes about the character: "I like changing moods a lot," Emlyn says. "Tina is sweet to some people and evil to others. It's fun to play around with the faces." Other things she likes are the frilly, prissy costumes she gets to wear, complete with pouffy layers of crinolines. "At the end, I get to wear red sequins," she says.

The most difficult thing about being onstage: Emlyn says she rarely gets nervous, has no qualms about singing solo and can easily memorize all her lines. "The hardest part for me is trying not to laugh when the jokes come," she says with a giggle.

Also, it's a challenge to get to the heart of the character, "realizing how they would say each-and-every line and make each-and-every move."

How she balances schoolwork with performing: Because most rehearsals and theater performances take place in the evening, her theater career rarely interferes with her schoolwork. She says "Ruthless" director Shon M. Stacy has gone out of his way to accommodate her, dismissing her from rehearsals before the other actors and beginning preparation for the show well in advance of its run.

She does admit that life at home can get hectic when she is involved in a show. "All the kids at our house go to different schools," says Emlyn, who is a middle child. "My sister is on the soccer team, my brother is running around playing war, and I have to get to rehearsal … but somehow we make it."

What she wants to be when she grows up: "I want to be either an actress, a writer, a teacher or an artist," she says. She adds that she really wants to be an actress, but that she has chosen other options in case an acting career does not work out.

Her favorite actress: Because she does not watch much television, Emlyn looks to local theater for inspiration. She says she is a fan of Debra Wagoner for her incredible singing voice. And she admires the work of her sister, seventh-grader Gray Crenhsaw, who is also an actress. In fact, she and Gray often compete for the same roles, both of them auditioning for the same part in "Ruthless."

What it's like to be the only kid among a cast of adults: "Age doesn't really matter to me," she says. "It's more a matter of personalities." She does note that there is one major disadvantage to being the only kid in the cast, especially for her parents: "There's no car-pool rides." — Jessica Ronky

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