Ally Banks’ father was shocked when his daughter informed him one day that she felt as though she had ran the course in her soccer career.
No longer content on the pitch, Banks made a decision she would be much happier on the stage, singing, dancing, acting or performing with a musical instrument instead of the continuous running up and down on a soccer field.
There was no admonishment from Banks’ family or trepidation to allow her to move in another direction. In fact the family encouraged her to pursue her passions and if acting, singing and the like was her forte, then the family was all for it.
“Two-and-a-half years ago Ally was very active in soccer,” Patrick Banks said. “At the end of the season she goes, ‘you know, Dad, I think I’m gonna hang up my soccer cleats and I think I’m going to give this acting thing a try.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ She had done a couple of performance camps at the Coterie Theatre and I was like, ‘OK, we’ll see what comes of that.’
“Literally two days later we got a call from the Coterie going, ‘we’d like Ally to come audition for a show.’ A day after that they were like, ‘we want her to be in the show.’ It went from her literally deciding she wanted to pursue it to five days later being cast in a show.”
What could have been a difficult transition seems to have gone smoothly for Ally, a 13-year-old seventh-grade student at Bernard Campbell Middle School. She has a role in an ensemble cast in the Starlight Children’s Theatre production “Peter Cottontail III,” a musical set to run March 29-31 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City.
Ally Banks is a member of the musical’s bunny chorus.
“I started auditioning two years ago (for Starlight Children’s Theatre productions),” Ally Banks said March 22 as she prepared for a six-hour rehearsal at Starlight Theater inside Kansas City’s Swope Park. “This is the first time I made it, but I’ve always wanted to do something with them.”
Securing the role wasn’t an easy task for Banks. Competition was fierce, but Banks – with plays at the Coterie and Fringe Festival and a finalist in Lee’s Summit Got Talent credits to her name – showed something that stuck with Jerry Jay Cranford, the musical’s director.
“She’s doing a wonderful job,” Cranford said of Banks’ exploits during rehearsals. “There were so many kids that auditioned that we got a pretty good cream of the crop of Kansas City talent. What’s great in this is that the kids get to participate more and they even get to dance. The kids have a big dance number and it’s so adorable and (Banks) is fabulous.
“From the auditions there were other kids that were really good dancers, but they just didn’t pick up as quickly. What I need as the director are kids that pick up very quickly because of this short rehearsal period and because they have school…we need not only talented but also sharp and bright and quick and we’ve got a whole slew of them in this show.”
“It was nerve-wracking because I know most of the people who were at the auditions,” Ally Banks said. “We’re all friends, but that kind of makes it fun too because you know everyone that is here. Now that I’m in the show, I’ve made a lot of new friends too.”
At Campbell, Banks is a student council member, plays violin in the orchestra and will be in the school’s concert choir next year as an eighth-grade student.
“I took my first class at the Coterie Theatre and after two years I started auditioning places,” Banks said of her extracurricular activities. “Through that I got involved with the violin in the fourth grade because I thought it would be fun to play and I thought it would be a cool thing to have a special skill.”
The compacted eight-day rehearsal schedule for the production of “Peter Cottontail III” would make even a seasoned professional blink. Six-hour rehearsals March for six straight days and two 10-hour stints between 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. March 25-26 provided a challenge for the up-and-coming entertainer.
“It’s been a really good learning experience because I have never been in a dance ensemble,” Ally Banks said. “I just started dancing last year, so it’s really cool that I get to do this.”
Patrick Banks added: “My wife and I, sometimes we’re just a glorified taxi service getting her to various rehearsals, but that’s pretty common with all families. We’re really happy for her.”
Banks even laid out some immediate and future goals as she prepped for a wardrobe fitting.
“I want to keep doing theater and acting all around Kansas City,” Banks said of her short-term goal. “My ultimate goal one day is to be on Broadway. That’s my big dream.”
And to her to decision to give up soccer for the stage, Ally Banks readily admits: “I know what I’m talking about.”
To which her father replied: “That’s what I said. I’m like, ‘I guess you know what you want.’”