Caitlin McAvoy’s known as a triple threat — she can sing, dance and act. The stage has always been her home and she’s already started the march up to the peak of her acting career as a professional. The JMU alumna does what she loves, and her goal is to simply “keep doing it.”
A Harrisonburg native, Caitlin McAvoy (‘15) grew up wanting to get away from her hometown to pursue a high-quality theater arts education. She scoured for schools in New York and Boston, but found exactly what she was looking for when the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts was built while she was in eighth grade.
“I remember seeing some of the current students perform for us and I told my mom after the auditions that I wasn’t going to make it because they were really good, but I was so blown away and hungry for it,” McAvoy said. “I felt like they were at such a professional and competitive level — I couldn't help but be a part of it.”
According to McAvoy, the JMU musical theatre experience was what led to her current success working in a professional environment. The program was kept small and she was able to have one-on-one lessons.
“We had to do so many incredible shows that pushed my boundaries and skill level so that I’m able to work on a professional level and become extremely competitive,” McAvoy said. “It taught me how to be a strong performer and how to be a good person. I think people underestimate how good it is to be a nice person and what that does for the world, for those around you and for yourself.”
Currently, McAvoy is starring as Charlotte herself in “Charlotte’s Web” for the Roanoke Children’s Theatre. Patrick Kennerly, one of her fellow actors, first met her in a show as an audience member, but hadn’t worked actor-to-actor with her until this production. He appreciates how easy she is to work with.
“We’re both actors who have had to put shows together in a hurry, which is the situation with this show,” Kennerly said. “I appreciate her talent, patience and willingness to take direction. Just on the fly, she doesn’t question it, she just tries it. The sky’s the limit as far as I’m concerned with Caitlin.”
The “Charlotte’s Web” production will be the first time McAvoy is back on the Forbes stage since she graduated. She’s also done the same show for the JMU Children’s Theatre while still in school, and played Charlotte in that one too, a character she personally admires.
“I’m over the moon,” McAvoy said. “If I could pick a show to do again at JMU, it would be ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Every time I get on stage being Charlotte, I feel like I’m learning something new. She is so strong yet feminine. I feel like me being able to portray her on stage fills me with the same qualities that I want to hold onto forever.”
McAvoy has been working professionally as an actress, going from production to production. Pat Wilhelms, artistic director of the Roanoke Children’s Theatre, has done these productions with McAvoy in the past. To Wilhelms, McAvoy has always been mature and professional, and hasn’t changed since the first time the two met.
“I think Caitlin stands out because she doesn’t have a huge ego that gets in her way,” Wilhelms said. “She’s a team player. She puts her heart into it and is there for the joy and craft of theater, not to boost her ego. That’s the difference, and it’s rare because that’s the divide among actors.”
Soon, McAvoy hopes to move to a bigger city, and has been agent hunting to make that transition smoother. She’s also making a shift to the film and television realm, where she has a TV show called “The Change” in post-production. McAvoy tells a younger version of herself to “believe in yourself.”
To her, she never grew out of her wanting-to-be-a-ballerina stage, which eventually morphed into her love for musical theater, then into TV and finally wanting to become a movie star. This path is where she’s meant to be.
“Being a professional actor is ridiculous — It’s a scary thing,” McAvoy said. “But you know you’ve found the right thing when you can’t imagine a plan B. When there is no plan B, this is just the love of your life.”
Contact Kailey Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.