26 Apr ‘Telling a story’: Conway girl discovers love of acting
by Sonja J. Keith
Conway’s Piper Wallace has had an impressive acting career, including several roles in area productions and the lead in an upcoming play, a New York musical audition and an ongoing TV commercial. Not bad for a 10-year-old.
Piper, a daughter of Jenny and Cameron Wallace, first auditioned in December 2016 for the Red Curtain Theatre production of “Elf.” In April, she has the lead in the Red Curtain production of “Matilda the Musical.”
Jenny recalled that she and her husband were talking with Piper about different activities. Her mom said they thought acting would be a good fit, because Piper has enjoyed imaginative play and likes to make up songs. Although Piper is shy, they thought maybe she would enjoy it. “Everyone has a thing and this is her thing,” Jenny said.
Piper, who said she was terrified and didn’t know anyone at the first audition, described it as “bad.” She completed the singing portion of the audition but did not want to read. “She came out and I said, ‘Piper, you don’t have to read, but I’m afraid that when we leave, if you don’t read you will be upset that you didn’t do it and you won’t have another chance.’” Jenny asked the judges that if they had time, if they would allow Piper to complete the audition, which they did.
“It’s funny, because now, auditioning is like her favorite,” Jenny said, adding that her daughter is still shy, but not when it comes to theatre or filming commercials. “It’s like she acts like she’s a little adult.”
Piper’s first role was in the ensemble for “Elf,” which she enjoyed. She did several children’s drama workshops and then tried out for the Red Curtain production of “Miracle on 34th Street.” She landed a major role as Susan Walker. The play was directed by Gerry Bruno, who has encouraged Piper to audition and pursue acting opportunities.
Piper has performed in 10 productions, including several in Little Rock. She has also appeared in “A Winter’s Tale” through the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. She said her favorite role was in the ensemble in her more recent show, “Elf” at Murry’s. She said it was fun and she enjoyed the other cast members.
Piper said her favorite part of acting is memorizing lines, which Jenny calls her special ability. Piper said she likes to try delivering her lines in new ways while learning them.
In September, Piper auditioned in New York City for the part of Cindy Lou for a production of “Grinch.” It was Piper’s first trip to New York.
In the last round, Piper was one of four girls in the final consideration for the role. Jenny said the director went with a younger, shorter girl for the role, but it was still a great experience.
“It was really fun,” Piper said. “It was something that I’ve never done before. Every audition I’ve ever done has been totally different.”
In addition to her stage performances, Piper has been doing monthly TV commercials for a year and a half and acting as a spokesperson for Mark McLarty Toyota. Jenny said her daughter is very unassuming and downplays it when someone mentions her TV spots. Piper gets paid for the commercials, with the money going into a savings account. The money, however, is not important to Piper. “I’d pay to do commercials.”
Piper is homeschooled along with her two older brothers and a younger sister. “I don’t think we could do the things or be as busy as Piper is, if we didn’t homeschool,” Jenny said.
Each of their children is talented in a different way, according to Jenny. All of the Wallace children are musically talented, and enjoy singing at home or on the go. “It’s like a singing road show everywhere we go,” Jenny said.
Recently, Piper’s siblings joined her as extras on one of the TV commercials. “I don’t sense any jealousy or rivalry. They all have their own thing. They are all so different,” she said. “They think it’s neat when Piper is on TV.”
In addition to acting, Piper sings and takes piano lessons. She also enjoys writing. Piper loves animals and decided nine months ago to become a vegetarian.
Piper has made a lot of friends along her acting journey. They write each other via Google Docs to stay in touch. “She has made the sweetest friends,” Jenny said. “They are so supportive of each other. So far, it’s been a very good experience.”
Piper said she likes to be in different productions, acting with some of the same people while also making new friends. She doesn’t get nervous when it comes time to perform before an audience. “I feel like I’m a whole different person. I try to be that character that I play.”
“She has nerves of steel. It’s impressive,” Jenny added. “She’s focused, too. There’s no playing around.”
After “Matilda,” Piper has several projects in the works. She will return to the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre in a role in “Macbeth.” She also has auditioned and been selected for “Annie,” scheduled in December at Murry’s.
Piper dreams of performing on Broadway. “That would be really fun,” she said. “I really think I want to do acting when I grow up.”
In the breaks between productions, Piper misses acting and the camaraderie with the cast. In addition, she doesn’t mind the time spent preparing and doesn’t have to be coaxed to go to rehearsal. “It’s her favorite thing to do. It’s just the path she’s on right now.”
While in New York last fall, Jenny and Piper met with and signed with an agent, who is in contact with them about possible roles so she can send self-tapes for consideration.
Jenny said “we are happy where we are” but pray only for the best blessing for Piper if a door should open.
“It’s fun because she just loves memorizing lines and playing a character,” Jenny said.
“And telling a story,” Piper added.