Some say a good career is like a hobby. For others a hobby becomes their career. That may be the case for local actress Krysten Day.
Day, who has been performing since high school, has taken the extra-curricular activity to a new level since performing arts caught her attention. She first got involved with her high school choir, which frequently incorporated dance into their practices and performances.
“Maize High School had a phenomenal music and drama program,” she said.
However, she didn’t get involved in theater until her junior year at Maize when she had a small part in the play “Medea” followed by the musical “Oklahoma” during a summer theater camp.
“They were small parts, but they were my first taste,” Day said. “I didn’t get involved passionately until I came to college in Manhattan and learned about the Columbian Theatre.”
Her first performance with the Columbian was “Godspell” in spring 2007. While obtaining her dual undergraduate degree from Kansas State University and Manhattan Christian College in bible studies, family studies and human services with an emphasis in social work and her master’s degree in social work from Washburn University, Day spent much of her free time practicing and performing in numerous shows at the Columbian. However, she never got involved with the theater program at K-State — a decision she thinks about from time to time.
“I had always heard great things about the K-State theater program and the amazing professors in charge of the K-State drama department; I regret not auditioning for it,” Day said. “I enjoyed my time with the community theater and stuck with that.”
Since she joined the Columbian community theater, Day has been in numerous shows including “South Pacific;” “Grease;” “The Christmas Spectacular;” “Kitchen Witches;” “Hoo Haw;” and “The Wizard of Oz,” for five performances, four as the character Dorothy. Her all time favorite role and performance is “Guys and Dolls,” where she played Adelaide.
“Playing Adelaide strengthened me as a performer, it was different than I was used to and challenging in new ways,” she said. “The challenge of playing it made me love the role even more and made the show more meaningful.”
In Guys and Dolls, Adelaide spends the entire show trying to get her fiancé of 14 years to finally say, “I do.” One of Adelaide’s character traits is that she is constantly battling a cold, which presented one of the main challenges for Day when trying to get into character.
“I watched a ton of videos, seasons of ‘The Nanny,’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’ the movie over and over to learn how to talk nasally,” Day said. “It was a lot of work but I really wanted to grasp the entirety of who she was as a character.”
The role pushed her to learn and perform outside of her comfort zone in more than one way. In addition to having to speak in a congested manner, she also had to learn how to sing in her character’s voice, which was something she’d never done for another role.
“It’s a hobby but a time-consuming and addicting hobby that I’ve fallen in love with,” she said.
Rehearsals take up roughly 20 hours per week Monday through Friday and sometimes Saturdays. Add that to the work each actor has to do at home to learn lines, memorize songs and build a relationship with the character and it could easily be almost a full-time job. Day thinks it is well worth the work.
“It’s a freeing experience to be able to provide entertainment for others to escape reality; it brings so much joy to me,” Day said.
Since the Columbian holds auditions shortly after the previous performance wraps up, performers who are avidly involved in theater are consistently either preparing for auditions, rehearsing or performing year-round. On average, she is in four shows each year. Even with the constant performances, she still gets the pre-show jitters each time she walks on stage in front of a crowd, although she wouldn’t change how it makes her feel.
“After I speak my first line or sing my first note the nerves run out of me in a burst of rejuvenating energy and it is freeing from there,” she said. “The adrenaline rush helps me get in the right mindset.”
Day encourages those who are passionate about theater and have considered auditioning for a role in a play to go for it. You never know until you try, she said.
“Everyone is capable of doing great things; be passionate about something and give it a shot,” she said.
In the performance world discouragement can be a new performer’s worst enemy. If Day had given up the first time she didn’t get a role she’d tried out for, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
By being involved and networking through the theater world, Day had the opportunity to work with film director Steve Balderson of Dikenga Films and screen play writer James Lair Beard for their newest full-length, independent comedy, “Occupying Ed.”
Balderson, who has made movies all over the world but is from Wamego, held a local casting call before filming began in January. Day was chosen for a small role.
“Working with Krysten on my latest film was a treat,” said Balderson. “Her comic timing is wonderful and very natural; she’s also incredibly personable and professional — a combination that is very rare.”
During the filming process, Day met actors and actresses from California and England as well as other performers from Manhattan. The days were long with filming usually taking place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with only one or two days off. The comedy has an estimated release of January or February 2014.
“It was a great time and an awesome learning experience,” Day said. “I learned a lot about film and learned to appreciate movies a lot more with all that goes into shooting a single scene.”
After Day finishes her master’s program, she has some tentative plans to move to Arizona to audition for the paid Arizona Broadway Theater.
“I’d love to pursue it because I’m young and I can,” said the 25-year-old Day.