When Sydney Howard saw “Violet” for the first time, she was touched.
“It was one of the most impactful theatrical experiences I’ve had,” said Howard, who saw the show in 2019 while studying in the U.K. “The whole message about a young woman learning how to say yes, how to be brave and reach self-actualization was something I could connect with. I knew immediately I wanted to eventually do it ever since.”
Howard, based in New York City, will make her first appearance in the Indianapolis area as the title character in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s production of “Violet,” set for Oct. 28 to Nov. 13 at the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
“She experienced an accident when she was 13 years old that left her with a horrible scar on her face,” Howard said. “It never healed properly. She has plans to go to see this televangelist, who she believes with all of her soul is going to heal her.”
The musical is set in 1964 in the South amid the Civil Rights Movement. For part of the show, Violet is on a bus traveling from a small town in North Carolina to Tulsa, Okla.
“The scar is treated as a metaphor that we all have things we wish we could change about ourselves,” Howard said. “These things that maybe we are insecure about keep us from becoming as brave and forthcoming in our life as we could be. That’s a journey everybody can connect with and that’s what drew me to it.”
Howard is on stage nearly the entire time, so there is a lot of line memorization.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I love,” she said.
Quincy Carman, a College Wood Elementary fourth-grader from Carmel, plays a young Violet. Carman, 10, learned about the audition from her vocal coach, Rebecca McConnell. Carman started acting two years ago. She has appeared in Jr. Civic shows “Frozen” and “The Little Mermaid.”
“I like that it’s the first show where I’m the only kid in it,” Carman said. “I feel like I can learn a lot.”
Carman said she loves Broadway.
“My friends like watching me perform and I like to perform,” she said. “It just makes me feel happy.”
Indianapolis resident Tiffany Gilliam, who portrays a musicl hall singer, has been in several Civic Theatre, Beef & Boards and Indiana Repertory Theatre shows.
“I heard about the show but didn’t really know the details of the show, so I did some homework,” Gilliam said. “Singing is my first love. I thought it fit the style of the show, fits with who I am and my gospel upbringing, so it fit perfectly.”
The 11-person cast includes Judy Fitzgerald, one of ATI’s three co-founders.
Indianapolis resident Richard Roberts, who is on the IRT artistic staff, is directing his fifth ATI show.
“I looked at the show and I fell in love with it,” Roberts said. “It’s a beautiful show. It’s an interesting challenge because half of the show takes place on a bus. For me to figure out how to stage that is very exciting.”
Roberts said 275 people auditioned from across the nation.
Maurice-Aime Green, from Las Vegas, performed some songs from the musical when he was at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“I love the story, and Jeanine Tesori is one of my favorite musical theater composers,” said Green, who plays one of the Army members on the bus. “The songs attracted me more than anything. The content of the show is very inspiring.”
Luke Weber, who graduated from Texas Tech and is based in New York, plays Monty. He was supposed to play the role in a college production but it was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I saw the job listing on Playbill, I sent in a monologue and a song,” Weber said. “Whenever I listen to the soundtrack of the show, I get goosebumps. Some shows can be predictable, but this show, you don’t know where it’s going to go.”