Originally published on Playbill.com
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Karri Lucas wears many hats: wife, mother, manager, chauffeur and chef-on-the-go.
As wife to software consultant Ed and mother of 12-year old Sydney, 13-year-old Jake and 18-year-old Brock Lucas, Karri’s days are already full. Add in the fact that her younger two children are both performing in Tony Award-winning musical productions on Broadway, and the multitasking matriarch is truly put to work, balancing her children’s school, homework, press events, outfit coordination and food.
Jake is currently playing Louis Leonowens in The King and I at the Vivan Beaumont Theater, while Sydney plays Small Alison in Fun Home at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The youngest actor to win an Obie Award, Sydney also received a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and performed the solo “Ring of Keys” at the June 7 Tony Awards broadcast.
After preparing whey protein shakes for breakfast, and fruits, vegetables, nuts and raisins for snacks, Karri takes the children to school and picks them up after classes. They go home after school – if they can. (“More often we have one or more events on the calendar and have to stay in the city.”) On those days, the car is their dining room and bedroom, where they eat and rest between school and performances.
Sydney and Jake are picked up at their respective theatres by their father, Ed, who waits as they sign autographs and take photographs with their fans at the stage door. This routine is doubled on two-show days with a crucial nap for Sydney between performances.
Their busy schedule, as well as efforts to keep a normal home life (their oldest son was applying to colleges at the same time Sydney and Jake’s careers picked up), tend to tire Karri and Ed out. But, Karri says, she’s frequently reminded that the effort is worth it.
“Seeing the kids on a professional stage, alongside Broadway legends like Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn and Kelli O’Hara…completely being present in the moment, bringing characters to life, telling meaningful stories, and holding audiences in the palm of their hand… Those are unforgettable moments,” she told Playbill.
But it’s not just the performing that is fulfilling, Karri adds, mentioning when Sydney traveled to South Carolina to support the College of Charleston by presenting Fun Home in a concert as well as the groundbreaking musical’s impact on its audiences at every performance.
“Seeing them making a ‘dent in the universe’ is pretty amazing,” Karri says. “We’ve seen firsthand how theatre can change people’s lives. What more could we want for our kids than to do what they love and make a difference?”
Karri remembers that Sydney was four years old when she began asking to do commercials (“I ignored her for a couple of years, and finally I had enough of her asking. I started doing internet searches.”) and both of her brothers asked to begin auditioning as well. Jake made his Broadway debut in Newsies in September 2012, and, Karri says, “Sydney was irritated for a hot second because she had always envisioned herself being on Broadway before the boys, but since they are best friends, she quickly became supportive and very excited for him.”
When both Fun Home and The King and I were recognized with Tony Award nominations, the Lucas family schedule went into overdrive, with receptions, events and interviews added to the daily routine of performing. Karri described awards season as a time of “exuberance and excitement,” during which the entire family heeded advice of veteran actress Chita Rivera to enjoy every second.
Awards season also added another dimension to Karri’s resume: stylist. “My biggest challenge was determining what outfit for Sydney to wear and to what event. I had to buy a lot of dresses for the season, and Sydney is super skinny, so all of them had to be taken in. I was getting pretty nervous about the Tonys until Anna Wintour and Teen Vogue (Andrew Bevan) arranged for Erin Fetherston to design a dress for Sydney. That lifted a lot off of my shoulders and allowed Ed and I to just enjoy the ride with Sydney.”
Sydney’s Tony Awards performance was a nervous moment for Karri and Ed (“I tried not to move my mouth with her, but I’m pretty sure I was breathing with her,” Karri confessed), but the entire evening was “definitely a ‘proud parent'” night for her and Ed.
But not every night is glamorous, Karri added, describing her children’s careers as a full-time, all-consuming commitment for the entire family.
“This life is definitely not for everyone,” she says. “There are some great perks, but most of the time, you’re grinding to prepare for the next thing and usually never have all the time you want to prepare. You have to be ultra-efficient, focused and effective in your day-to-day life so you don’t drive yourself crazy.”
And it does require sacrifices. “The parental social calendar is pretty much non-existent,” she continues. “You can count on that because you or your actor kid(s) will always be under a deadline for some type of deliverable (homework, memorizing a script, learning and memorizing a song, learning a dance routine, writing yet another bio, doing something for press, preparing or arranging attire, preparing for an interview, etc.). There is always something to prepare for and something hanging over your head needing to be done. The kids really have to love the preparation and the work, and the parents have to be willing to put a significant chunk of their existing lives on hold in order to make it all happen.”
Taking all of her scheduling, driving and cooking into account, when asked if she has any time to herself, Karri laughs.