Annie Sacry didn't get a second callback when she auditioned for "Dracula" last spring.
"I had written it off in my head," Sacry said last week.
Then, her friends started asking her a question with a knowing look: "Have you checked the cast list yet?"
Turns out, the junior fine arts student at the University of Montana had landed the role she'd coveted, Lucy Westenra, the leading female character. Sacry said it's hard to find plays that have dynamic female characters, and in William McNulty's adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" opening Wednesday, Lucy is the one who develops.
"Lucy is the character that goes through the most significant change through the play, and I wanted to work with that," Sacry said.
So it is that a graduate of Whitehall High School landed her first big lead, a milestone on a unique path she's taking in the arts. Sacry doesn't have her sites set on fame or glory or Hollywood stardom, but on collaborative creation and the exploration of humanity.
"I love storytelling, but I like that in acting, I get to learn more about myself as well as other people. So it's a constant education on being human, I think. That's what really drew me into it," Sacry said.
Sacry's dad and grandparents live in Whitehall, but before landing there, she lived all over. Washington. California. Virginia. Germany. Alabama. Arkansas.
She danced when she was a child, but her first role was as a junior in high school as part of the ensemble for "The Music Man." She did another show her senior year, and didn't think too much of it.
Then, at UM, she took a theater class.
"I took an acting class my freshman year of college and decided that's what I wanted to do, so here I am," Sacry said.
This summer, after landing the lead, Sacry read the script, pored over the scenes her character is in, and ruminated over the comments others make about Lucy.
The script is written in "funny and interesting ways," she said, and she was most surprised at the ease with which the production came together. She believes the right casting and direction paid off in its cohesion.
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"We had that type of trepidation. We weren't sure how it was all going to fall into place," Sacry did.
Hunter Hash, who plays Dr. Seward, said Sacry is a delight as a colleague and as an actor in "Dracula." She plays a prim and proper character who deteriorates into one who's almost as evil as the vampire, and he said her strong physicality shows the character's transformation.
"It brings such a sensuality, a creepy blood-curdling component to it – it's just absolutely wonderful," said Hash, also a junior.
As a colleague, she's warm and friendly and easy to get along with, he said – no small feat in show business.
"There's nobody in the department that has any excuse to have any kind of disdain for her, which is so nice among a group of such angst-y people," Hash said.
"It's a very nice breath of fresh air."
Sacry wants to pursue her own art in a way that gives her a direct hand in the craft and involves meaningful collaboration with other artists.
"I am much more intrigued by the possibility of having my own theater or working with a private company and fueling that as opposed to going big," Sacry said.
She loves theater over film, although she wouldn't hide if the camera came her way. At least for the time being, she's pleased to explore the relationship an actor has with an audience.
"With live theater, it's that moment that you're never going to get back, and you have that moment with the audience," Sacry said. "There is something truly magical about that."
In "Dracula," there's also something truly eerie about it, she said. The screams are real.
"There are going to be subtle humorous things throughout, but it's definitely spooky."