From left to right: Will, Ellie and Caroline Coffey

From left to right: Will, Ellie and Caroline Coffey

On Sunday, October 29th Young Artists of America is presenting The Sound of Music in Concert at University of Maryland's The Clarice Performing Arts Center. The performance will feature over 100 young artists from the YAAOrchestra, YAACompany and YAAjunior working together to make the von Trapp family come alive. Of particular note in this ensemble will be three performers who will have a bit of help acting like von Trapp siblings. Why? Because they're sibs in real life! Will Coffey (14) will play Kurt. Ellie Coffey (9) will play Gretel and Caroline Coffey (17) is in the YAACompany. We sat down with them for an interview to learn more about their unique experience!

Will and Ellie, what's it like playing siblings on stage and being siblings in real life?

(Will) Playing siblings onstage and being siblings in real life is the same in the feeling of unity - of all being in the same boat.  I feel protective because unexpected things can happen onstage, and this is Ellie's first time, so I want that experience to be good for her.

(Ellie) It is strange but familiar because the von Trapp family children are siblings in a different way than we are. The von Trapp children are trying to get their father's attention.  They work together to play tricks on the governess because they have all this time together, whereas we go to different schools and we're not together all the time.  

Caroline, what is it like having both your siblings in YAA?

(Caroline) It's exciting because now we get the chance to share jokes and stories from rehearsal where we all have the insider's perspective!  

What's been the most fun thing so far during rehearsals?

(Caroline) When the YAAjunior kids came in to sing "Doe A Deer" and I made faces at Ellie to make her less nervous about singing in front of the big kids.

(Will) The jokes Mr. Heinemann makes during rehearsals, so we still get our work done and have fun during the process.

(Ellie) Agreed! Mr. Heineman. He is very funny, but at the same time we get all our stuff done.

What do you love most about YAA?

(Caroline) I love their commitment to the process and how everyone in rehearsal is expected to put effort and integrity into every note. This means we don't have to take ourselves as seriously because we are getting things done. Rehearsal is a lot of fun.  

(Will) What I love most about YAA is the support from all the students, and the community environment is one that helps us to thrive.

(Ellie) What I love most about YAA is the support that everybody gives everyone. For example, when I had a solo in Lonely Goatherd, (the students playing) Maria, Frederick and Liesel were all smiling at me.   

What are you most excited about for performance day?

(Caroline) I am excited about getting to see William and Ellie have a lot of fun onstage.

(Will) I am most excited about rehearsing and being on the stage we'll perform on - just seeing it all come together.  It is an amazing experience!

(Ellie) I am most excited about seeing everybody after the show, knowing that we did it, and did a good job.

Were you familiar with Sound of Music before you were cast? Have you seen it on stage, on screen, etc? What are your impressions? What does it mean to you?

(Caroline) I have seen The Sound of Music at Olney Theatre, and on screen more times than I can count. I probably have every line of that movie memorized. It's a family favorite, so it's so much fun to be learning more about the music and harmonies.

(Will) I was introduced to The Sound of Music when I was very little. My mom had a DVD, and I loved it. And when I was older we went to a production in Olney, and it was all portrayed in a different way but it was still the same story, and it was fun to watch it performed a new way.  I think YAA is going to do just that with this production. When I was a bit older, Sound of Music Live was on television. It was definitely very different from the original, but I have to say that I liked the original better.

(Ellie) I have seen The Sound of Music on screen. To me it means to follow your dreams even though it may not seem the right path at first.  

Tell us a bit about how you're preparing to play your character.

(Ellie) I am preparing to play my character so that it seems to the audience that I am younger than I actually am. In other words, being a five year-old. I am working on my speaking voice to sound younger.  

(Will) I am preparing to play my character, Kurt, by thinking about what his personality is like. In the movie, he was shy.  

What have you found to be the biggest challenge in this role? Can you talk about it and how you're overcoming it?

(Will) The role is musically challenging, like the entire musical.  I am overcoming it with hard work and rehearsal time. 

(Ellie) The biggest challenge in playing this role is sounding younger than I am. It is not easy to go back to sounding like a five year-old, but I think I am overcoming it by practicing how to say my lines that way.

Catch The Coffeys and The von Trapps on Sunday! Get your tickets here