published Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Teen dons feathered costume for role as a parrot in 'Aladdin Jr.'

  • photo
    Benna Curole, 14, is an actress who is playing the parrot Iago in Colonnade's production of "Aladdin Jr.".
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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ABOUT HER

* School: Home-schooled.

* Siblings: Brothers Clayton, 18, and Jac, 12.

* Favorite movies: "The Hunger Games" and "Clueless."

* Favorite book: "The Maximum Ride" series by James Patterson.

* Favorite bands: The Jackson Five, Ronan Parke and John Denver.

* Favorite role she's played: Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

With shoulder-length hair, a ready smile and a slightly goofy personality, there's very little about Benna Curole to make one think of a parrot, much less an evil one.

Yet, in the six years since she first took the stage, the 14-year-old North Georgia actress twice has portrayed colorful birds.

The first time was in 2010, when she took the stage at the Catoosa County Colonnade in an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's swashbuckling classic "Treasure Island." Despite being a supporting role, Benna won her acting company's Best Cameo Star Award for pulling the strings of the production's parrot puppet, Cap'n Flint.

This weekend, Benna once again will thread feathers through her locks as Iago, the loud-mouthed henchfowl of the evil sorcerer Jafar in a Community Players production of the musical "Aladdin Jr.," also at the Colonnade.

"I have to talk like a parrot and act like a teenage girl -- a very dumb teenage girl," she said, laughing, a pair of red feathers dangling from her earrings.

"It's fun to tie all those things in together," she added. "I get to be evil, and that's a lot of fun. My mom is probably thinking it's typecasting."

Benna's mother, Elisa Curole, said that the fact that her daughter is onstage at all is a greater surprise than that she is once again portraying a role with a beak.

Growing up, Curole said, Benna was painfully shy. So when her husband called to tell her that Benna, then 8 years old, had decided to audition for a part in a Christmas play alongside her brother, Clayton, it was a shock.

"It was very surprising that she was willing to get out onstage, but it was amazing to watch the transformation," Curole said. "You put her up there, and she came to life. It would blow you away."

Since then, Benna has taken on about four roles every year, including an orphan in the musical "Oliver," the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," a goblin in "The Hobbit" and Tigger in "The House at Pooh Corner."

Her roles have come a long way since playing Child No. 2 in "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" and a tree in "Snow White."

Her first major role was in a 2008 production of "The Little Princess," in which she played the servant Becky, for which she won her first Star Award as Best Supporting Actress. Last year, she won her latest Star Award as Best Lead Actress for her portrayal of Scout in the Colonnade's production of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Although she spent the first years of her life cowering behind her mother's skirts whenever a stranger approached, Benna has never felt nervous about being onstage. She said she decided a long ago time ago to commit completely to her roles, both dramatic and slapstick.

"You can't be afraid to be stupid," she said. "If you feel stupid while you're doing it, you're probably doing it right.

"I've seen people get up onstage who are so afraid to be silly that their character just doesn't work. You truly have to just get out there and do it and not be afraid."

Acting now has become a fixture in Benna's life. The rare two-week breaks between productions can be disorienting, she said, but she usually uses them to prepare for her next role.

"I tend to read a lot during downtime," she said. "Now, I'm reading 'The Diary of Anne Frank' to prepare for an audition at the Walker County Civic Center in August."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

NEXT UP

Benna Curole, 14, will portray the evil parrot Iago in the Community Players production of "Aladdin Jr." at the Catoosa County Colonnade, 264 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, Ga. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 adults, $12 seniors/students/children and $11 groups.

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? We're searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, email staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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