Being an orphan is a family affair for the Horton clan, all three sisters have appeared in the play

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CLACKAMAS REPERTORY THEATER - Ava Marie Horton as Annie leads the Clackamas Repertory Theater in the song A New Deal for Christmas. Ava Marie Horton, a 13 year-old Gresham resident, is now officially a professional actress, since she's getting paid for her starring role as the beloved orphan in the Clackamas Repertory Theatre's production of "Annie."

Ava Marie is not the first Annie in the Horton family. Her younger sister Ellen, 10, recently played the title role in the Eastside Theater Company's staging of "Annie." Littlest sister Claire, 6, joined Ava Marie as an orphan in the Eastside staging.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Ava Marie and her sisters, Claire, 6, and Ellen, 10, share a hug in their backyard. All have appeared in productions of Annie. Ava Marie already is a veteran actress, performing in her first play, "Little Women" at age 10 with Gresham's SALT Academy and Performing Arts Co. She's done five plays with SALT and four plays with the Eastside Theater Company.

The Eastside Theater folks knew the people running the Clackamas Rep and suggested Ava Marie try out for the production of "Annie."

"Even if I didn't get a part, we thought it would be a good experience," Ava Marie said. She prepared a one minute singing audition and was thrilled to get a call back. She initially landed the part of Pepper, one of the orphans.

"I accepted, obviously, it is a big deal to be in professional theater," she said. Due to casting changes, Ava Marie was elevated to the starring role of Annie.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CLACKAMAS REPERTORY THEATER - Ava Marie and Cora Craver as Molly sing the song Maybe in the Clackamas Reps production of Annie. "Annie," based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip "Little Orphan Annie," debuted on Broadway in 1977 and won seven Tony Awards including best musical.

It is staged often by theater companies and schools around the world and is known for its sunny vibe and memorable songs including "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile, "It's a Hard Knock Life" and "Tomorrow."

To get ready for the part, Ava Marie cut her long brown locks and died her hair the bright red that is Annie's trademark. Her sister Ellen did the same when she played Annie in the Eastside production.

Ava Marie began weekly voice lessons at the beginning of the summer, which she said has helped her improve her singing. She plans to continue the lessons.

"It makes it easier when you know what your body is doing when you are singing," she said.

In addition to the creative outlet, Ava Marie likes the camaraderie of being in a play. "It's a different kind of community. Everyone is working toward the same goal. Everyone is encouraging. It becomes like a family."

The Horton parents are not thespians, but Ava Marie noted her mother is an excellent clarinet player.

The girls have been taking dance classes for several years at SALT.

Ava Marie counts the role of Tinkerbell in "Peter Pan" as her favorite and enjoyed performing in the Gilbert and Sullivan classic "The Pirates of Penzance."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO:EASTSIDE THEATER COMPNAY - Ava Marie Horton as Tinkerbell (far right) with the cast of the Eastside Theater Companys Peter Pan. She counts this as one of her favorite roles so far. "You can do that (Pirates of Penzance) as more of a comedy and its really fun," she said.

Julie Andrews fan

In the future, Ava Marie would love to play Maria in a production of "The Sound of Music" or Mary Poppins.

"They were both played by Julie Andrews. I love Julie Andrews," she said.

She's interested in any kind of theater, but loves musicals "because I love to sing and dance."

Ava Marie and her sisters go to Corbett Schools. Mom Aimee said Corbett was a good fit for Ava and her sisters because they can learn at their own pace.

"I'll be going to the high school for math next year," OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - In addiiton to acting, Ava Marie is on her schools math team, plays soccer and golfs and swims with her family. Ava Marie said. Science is her favorite subject.

She's on the school math team and plays soccer. "I've been playing soccer longer than doing theater," she said.

"Lately dad's been into golfing, so we go golfing as a family," she said. The family also goes swimming and biking.

Does she want to be an actress? Yes, of course, Ava Marie said. "But I want to go to college and have something to fall back on if being an actress doesn't play out the way I want it to."

Clearly, it won't be a hard knock life for Ava Marie.

If you go...

Performances of "Annie" by the Clackamas Repertory Theater are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through Aug. 26.

Children under 6 years-old are not allowed.

Tickets are $15, $36 and $38.

Performances in the Osterman Theater in The Niemeyer Center at Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Ave., Oregon City. Call 503-594-6047.

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