In our debut issue, we featured actress Colby Kipnes. She’s been the voice of two Nickelodeon characters (Riley in “Nella the Princess Knight” and Oona in “Bubble Guppies”) and acted in local and regional theater. But her dream was always Broadway, and this spring, she made her Broadway debut.
It all happened “really fast,” says 13-year-old Waccabuc resident Colby Kipnes. A Broadway casting director she’d auditioned for the year before asked Kipnes to audition for the role of Squirrel in an upcoming play called “Grey House.” The stars – Laurie Metcalf, Tatiana Maslany, Paul Sparks, Sophia Anne Caruso and Millicent Simmonds – as well as the understudies had been cast. There were only three roles left, and this casting director thought of Kipnes.
“After I got the script, I had two days to make my audition tape, and two or three days later, I was called in for the second audition,” she says.
Kipnes’ call back was on February 25; she was one of about 30 to audition for the role. The next night, she learned she got the part.
“My mom and I went to see my friend in his Broadway debut, and my mom turned her phone off,” she remembers. “After the show, we had dinner with our friends and got home around 10 p.m. My mom turned her phone back on and there were all these crazy messages from my agent and manager saying, ‘Call us, call us!’ They were both calling at the same time, so we knew it was something good.”
They called back and heard, “Colby, how would you like to make your Broadway debut?” Her mom started screaming, and she started crying.
And then came the hard part: silence. She wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until the show was officially announced, so only her immediate family knew.
“It was torture,” she says. “When I went to school, I literally didn’t talk because I knew if I started saying something, I would say it.”
She also had to give up the lead role in “The Secret Garden” at ACT of CT, her home theater, but she couldn’t say why. And even when rehearsals began, she had to stay quiet until it was officially announced.
“Grey House” is a psychological thriller about a couple who crashes their car in the mountains and seeks shelter in an isolated cabin. Kipnes’ character, Squirrel, is one of the children in the home.
“The main word I’d use to describe her is feral,” Kipnes explains. “But I also think she’s honest and she only says something if she really wants to say it. She’s not like everyone else. She just wants to do what she wants to do.”
Kipnes’ favorite thing about playing Squirrel is the stunts – she’s on the dining table several times, on top of the fridge (even though she’s afraid of heights), slides through the sofa, etc., but she’s still very clumsy.
“I get hurt on every show,” she says.
“The cast has a running tally of ‘House versus Colby,’” her mom chimes in. “Doors are opening into her, she trips, she cuts herself – they’re all keeping score.”
Kipnes also loves being around so many other child actors – the main cast includes three child actors, and there are three young understudies.
“I also get to work with older, famous actors who I look up to,” she says. “They inspire me, and it’s so cool that I get to be in a show with them.”
As of now, “Grey House” is only set to run through September 3. And when the show does end, what does Kipnes want to do now that she’s fulfilled her dream? That’s simple.
“I want to keep doing Broadway.”
This article was published in the July/August 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.