Hayla Howat loves the whole theatre business

December 16, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 10.12.53 PMBy Constance Scrafield

This weekend presents you with your final opportunity to see Theatre Orangeville’s brilliant and beautiful The Gift of the Magi, current running until December 20.

To give you some insight into one of the cast members making this production so memorable, we sat down to chat with its youngest, Hayla Howat, playing the role of Agatha, the one of two children in the show, Lindsay Scheel being the other. We sat on the revolving stage in the “Café” set that occupies one third of the three part configuration. It is altogether a very attractive and clever construction.

When director David Nairn was talking about his road to casting Miss Hawat in the role, he informed us earlier that, of the some 47 youngsters who auditioned for the part, she was “the best of the best.”

So, we began our conversation with her by delving somewhat into her life as it has brought her to being in this production. Like Lindsay Scheel, Miss Howat is very involved with Citrus Dance and also takes vocal lessons at P. S. Studios. At Citrus, she dances four afternoons a week and “sometimes on Saturdays.”

Asked why she is so dedicated to dance, she replied quite simply, “Because it’s lots of fun and I love to dance – it’s one of my favourite things.”

We wanted to know what, in addition to dance, ranks among her other favourite things,. She responded, “I love to do theatre – I was in Mary Poppins [with Theatre Orangeville’s Young Company, when she played Michael Banks]. Then, I decided to audition for this show and, lucky enough, I got the role.”

Although she and her family live in Orangeville, Miss Howat goes to the arts elementary school, Alton Public School. She really enjoys attending that school, remarking, “They [the students] have different characters – I’ve never heard of bullying at Alton – there are no bullies.”

Her mother drives her to school in Alton every day, as there is no bus route to accommodate them.

Of the school, Miss Howat commented, “They understand when we are doing a show like this, to be helpful with the homework. The school coaches kids on balancing dance and homework. I’m keeping up with my homework while I’m doing this show.”

Drama and musical productions are a big part of the student life at the Alton school and, in fact, they are doing a production of The Lion King in April 2016, in which Miss Howat is playing the part of Simba.

This curriculum is helpful as, during her normal weeks, she rushes to dance after school. “I started when I was three,” she told us. “My mom put me in it and I loved it.”

She also loves reading, as she let us know, “I love to read, chapter books and series. I read ‘Dear Dumb Diary’ – it was so funny. And one book called “Are parents really animals?’ I have asked for the Harry Potter series for Christmas. I haven’t seen the mov- ies yet because I want to read the book first.”

It stands to reason that Miss Howat is learning more about musical theatre while she is participating in this production. Up to now, she has not necessarily had to read music because she picked up her singing roles by listening.

However, with her involvement in Gift of the Magi, she has begun to learn to read music, since all the songs are new and not songs with which she was already familiar.

“Leslie [Arden] has been teaching me,” she told us. “My family are coming to see it. My mom loves coming to all the shows. I think she loves watching me. Dad thinks it’s fun seeing me on stage with all the adults.”

Her two sisters are also busy at six and four years old; they are more interested in sports at this stage of their lives. When her sisters saw the show, “they said they loved it. They really enjoyed seeing me on stage too,” Miss Howat said.

Of the story in the Gift of the Magi, she commented, “This tells you that Christmas isn’t about presents – it’s about love and friendship.”

And with reference to her own ambitions, she was clear: “I want to be a famous actor when I get older. I love the audiences, the spotlight on my face and being on stage – I love the costumes. And I love it when the audience is laughing and having a good time.”

Laughing, she added, “I remember one show I had to look out at the audience and my sister started to wave to me.”

The Gift of the Magi is running until this Sunday, December 20. Tickets, as usual at the Box Office on Broadway at the Town Hall and at the Tourist Information Centre on Buena Vista Drive at Highway 10; at 519-942-3423 and


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