For 11-year-old actress Adia Wilde, life isn't just a stage; the stage is her life.
Adia said she became fascinated by the theater at age 3 when her older sister, Leica, was cast in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" at St. Luke United Methodist.
"Adia would refuse to leave rehearsals because she wanted to sit and watch," said Adia's mother, Janelle Wilde. "She was pestering the director and me about when she could be in the next show."
The next year, Adia landed her first role as a townsperson in St. Luke's production of "Big River," a musical inspired by "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Since then, she has been nearly continuously involved in plays and musicals at St. Luke, her school and the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. So far, she estimates she has performed in 30 productions, including "Bye-Bye Birdie," "Go Dog Go," and "Schoolhouse Rock Live."
Sometimes, shows bleed into one another when a set for one performance is struck the same night as auditions are held for another. Despite the occasionally convoluted schedule that results, Adia said she always enjoys diving into new characters.
"In the beginning when you get the script and open it up, it's like entering the ring because you've got so much to accomplish," she said. "Seeing yourself grow throughout the rehearsal process and seeing it all come together in the end ... it's kind of like magic, like bringing a book to life."
Adia has never had a leading role, but she said she believes in the importance of understanding her characters, regardless of how many lines she has. That process typically involves writing out her thoughts about a character and trying to internalize the way each thinks.
In 2010, Adia was cast as the youngest role in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's production of the Arthur Miller play "The Crucible."
Understanding the motivation for Betty Parris, a young accuser in the Salem Witch Trials, was an unnerving, but rewarding, experience, she said.
"It freaked me out a little bit," she said, laughing. "[But] it was amazing to see people who were adults who were still acting. To think that I could do that when I'm an adult was inspiring."
"The Crucible" was directed by Theatre Centre education director Chuck Tuttle. Adia's dedication to knowing her part and commitment to taking direction set her apart from many other young actors, he said.
"She holds her own with just about any actor I've worked with," he said. "I wish I had a dozen like her.
"She's inventive and 'on' when she's onstage. There's not a sense that she's somewhere else."
Adia's last performance for her school play, "Once on This Island," ended May 20, and for the first time in as long as she or her mother can remember, there are no upcoming productions to prepare for.
Despite taking a brief respite from the stage, the siren song of the theater has been the soundtrack to Adia's life. Given her passion, Adia will be back treading the boards sooner rather than later, Wilde said.
"I have to keep her from doing it; I have to hold her back," she said. "I try to teach her balance, but if she had her choice, she would do it constantly.
"She always takes whatever comes to her. She's happy to get whatever role she gets."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205.
Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is 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, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 423-757-6205.
CLAIM TO FAME
Adia Wilde, 11, has been acting since she was 4 years old. She has been involved in theatrical productions for her school, Normal Park Museum Magnet, her church, St. Luke United Methodist, and on various stages at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.