NO PLACE LIKE HOME
BAKERSVILLE – Every time Mitchell County natives Chelsea Wilson Thayer and her husband of 12 years, Bryan, came home to visit it got more difficult to leave. So, they came back for good.
Chelsea, 33, is director of education and outreach at Parkway Playhouse and Bryan, 35, is a healthcare consultant who works remotely.
“We truly feel there is no place like home,” Chelsea said. “The longer we were away the more we knew there was no place we’d rather be. We want to have a positive impact on the community no matter where we are, and there’s no better place to do that than a place we love.”
Chelsea is a 2002 graduate of Mitchell High School. After earning her bachelor’s degree in theatre education from Appalachian State University in 2006, she moved to New York City, where she and Bryan lived for more than two years while she earned her master’s degree in education theatre from New York University. After that, Bryan’s job took them to Fort Worth, Texas, for five years, St. Louis for a year and more recently Nashville, Tennessee, where the couple and sons Beckett, 6, Brandt, 3, and daughter Blake, 9, lived for 18 months before moving to family owned property on Wilson Road in late 2014.
“We appreciate home more now because of our travels,” Chelsea said. “We realize even more the beauty of our small town and the importance of a tight-knit community.”
With her home on family land and her fourth child on the way, a son, Stokes, named after her paternal grandfather, Chelsea said the Thayers are here to stay.
“We will not go anywhere else,” she said.
The importance she places on the sense of community was instilled in her by her parents, John and Betty Wilson, who she also credited with fostering her love of theatre.
“My dad inspires my love for the community,” she said. “He lived away for more than 30 years and came back and I see how he strives to make Mitchell County a better place.”
It has been a year since Chelsea started her job at Parkway Playhouse and in the spirit of having a positive effect on the community, Chelsea said theater can play a part in that as well.
“I believe (in theater’s) power to enlighten and redefine,” she said. “I believe my passion for the art form is apparent in my work. It is my hope to create outreach theater opportunities and other artistic experiences for the community to foster an appreciation, understanding and dialogue for the art.”
It is for those reasons Thayer initiated Parkway Playhouse’s free “Reading is Alive” education outreach program, where professional actors perform for students in Mitchell, Yancey and Avery counties. The actors are presenting “A Year with Frog and Toad,” the musical based on the children’s stories written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Free performances have taken place in Mitchell, Yancey and Avery counties. Another performance is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, July 13, at Spruce Pine Library. Participating children receive a “Reading is Alive” bookmark and book, according to grade and reading level.
The intent of “Reading is Alive” is providing children who may have never experienced live theater or owned a book the opportunity to participate in the project, which is a collaboration among Parkway Playhouse, Penland School of Crafts and the Avery-Mitchell-Yancey Library system.
“I consider myself both a teacher and an artist,” Chelsea said. “Having completed my master’s degree at New York University in educational theater and having trained in London and Ireland with the foremost experts in the field, I feel confident in my ability to use theater as a tool to both educate and engage students while enriching their lives.”
She has worked with theater practitioners at The Globe and Unicorn Children’s Theatre in London and Samuel Beckett Theatre in Ireland. She has her North Carolina teaching license in K-12 theater arts and has taught students of all ages in New York, Texas and North Carolina.