Many stage actors got their start in theatre to overcome shyness. Others fell into performing because they are natural entertainers. Tracey Buckmaster Graham falls into the latter category.
“I think I started singing as soon as I could talk,” she says. “I loved watching shows at a very young age and loved doing little shows in grade school.”
Her first community theatre production was the Center Stage production of Carousel in 1988. She was 12 years old and full of self confidence. She had been singing solos in her school’s church choir since elementary school, and she has cultivated a strong alto belt over the years, studying for a short time with Stephen Sheftz.
As much as she loves acting and singing, the daycare director and single mother of three hasn’t taken time out for her passion in several years. Her last production was Arena Dinner Theatre’s 2007 production of Nunsensations (she has played Sr. Robert Anne in several “Nunsense” incarnations around town). But this summer she has returned to the Civic Theatre stage after a six-year absence (she also played a nun in that production, The Sound of Music).
In her current show, Les Misérables, she makes a departure from her sisterly duties by playing a variety of roles as a featured ensemble player.
Although she loves everything about performing and entertaining, she takes the work seriously. “[The biggest challenge] is knowing whether I’m making the best choice in how I deliver my character,” she says. “I’m a pleaser, so I probably worry too much about what the audience will think about my performance.”
She also worried about spending enough time with her kids. “I wanted to do a summer show because I would still get to spend time with my kids while they weren’t in school,” she says. “My parents have helped a lot and they were the ones encouraging me to get involved in theatre again.”
The extra effort has been worth it. “Just being back on the stage has been great,” she says, “but working for [director] Greg Stieber and [music director] Eunice Wadewitz and with this amazing cast and crew has been one of the most rewarding theatre experiences I have ever had.”
Graham would love to pass the legacy on to her kids, but she isn’t sure they will follow in her footsteps.
“My kids love sports, which boggles my mind,” she laughs. “They enjoy watching theatre and sing along when I play show tunes. My older two [Katie, 12; and Isaiah, 11] have lovely voices, but it doesn’t interest them. There is still hope for my youngest [Levi, 8], but I’m not sure about his singing voice yet. I am hoping to get him into Fort Wayne Youtheatre to see if it is something that he might enjoy.”
Editors note: whatzup will continue to publish profiles of local actors and archive them on our website as we do other artists.