John Hemphill as Reverend Paris (left, back row), Greg Heilman as Thomas Putnam (right, back row), Nancy Nucci as Ann Putnam (far right, front row), and Alyssa Kusherets as Ruth Putnam (center, front row) star in Western Washington Center for the Arts’ production of “The Crucible.” (WWCA photo)

John Hemphill as Reverend Paris (left, back row), Greg Heilman as Thomas Putnam (right, back row), Nancy Nucci as Ann Putnam (far right, front row), and Alyssa Kusherets as Ruth Putnam (center, front row) star in Western Washington Center for the Arts’ production of “The Crucible.” (WWCA photo)

Orchard Heights girl soars in WWCA’s ‘The Crucible’

Alyssa Kusherets also has her sights on a career in space

PORT ORCHARD — Alyssa Kusherets has taken on a full plate as a young cast member of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” a classic production about the Salem witch trials in the 1690s, now appearing at the Western Washington Center for the Arts in Port Orchard.

The youngster alternates playing Susanna Walcott and Ruth Putnam in the allegorical production, which is a sober tale of accusation and vengeance in colonial Massachusetts. But 10-year-old Alyssa is anything but somber in real life. The Southworth resident and fifth-grader at Orchard Heights Elementary is about as ebullient and well-spoken a girl as they come.

The precocious girl is smart, confident and joyful. And, not surprisingly, she has plans — plenty of them — for her future. They include perhaps taking more bows on stage as an actor and building upon her past credits, which included a star turn as Molly in “Annie” at the Paradise Theatre in Gig Harbor.

Her stage debut came about in something of a whim.

“My mom walked up to the theater and said, ‘My daughter would like to audition for “Annie,”’ and that’s how I got the part of Molly,” the youngster said.

Her mom says Alyssa is a natural on stage and possesses “an incredible memory.” Alexandra Kusherets said her daughter “memorized lines for everyone” in the production.

Alyssa takes it all in stride. “Last night I had to play a different role than I normally would, which is Susanna Walcott, but I was able to memorize the lines in about a week,” she said while sitting at her home near the Southworth ferry dock.

And her penchant for memorization serves her well. “If someone else forgot their lines,” the confident young thespian said, “the director trusted me to say it for them.”

The play’s director, Gary Fetterplace, said Alyssa’s talent and abilities were obvious when he first met her Christmas 2019 during “Annie” at the Paradise — he played the butler in that production.

“She went on to play a part in Bremerton Community Theatre’s Christmas production in 2021,” Fetterplace said. “She had grown into a competent actress and thus I approached her family [about] being in this play. I, too, started in theater around her age and I could see the drive in her to be a performer and artist.”

Acting is just fun

While Alyssa takes her roles on stage seriously, for her, acting is a lot of fun.

“A lot of the time, I think of acting as something fun to do,” she said. “A lot of people have stage fright. I used to — I don’t know what happened, but I began to feel really comfortable on stage. When the performance [takes place], I feel jittery backstage. But when I come on stage, it feels like normal, everyday life when I say my lines.”

The Orchard Heights Elementary student said she’s encouraged to continue acting because she has a classmate friend with the same interests.

“My friend Gabby and I are like the actors in the class,” she said. “We really want to have a future with it.”

Beyond acting, Alyssa (her favorite subject is math) is considering a career after college working for NASA in the space program. She’s on the right glide path as a student in her school’s SOAR (Students of Accelerated Rigor) program for highly capable students.

— “The Crucible” at the Western Washington Center for the Arts, 521 Bay St. in Port Orchard, 360-769-7469

The production runs through Sunday, March 20. WWCA has made available 10 tickets (limit 2 to each lucky caller) to the first Kitsap Daily News readers to call the theater.

Fifth-grader Alyssa Kusherets mixes her love of acting with a desire to have a career in the world of space, possibly working for NASA. (Bob Smith | Kitsap News Group)

Fifth-grader Alyssa Kusherets mixes her love of acting with a desire to have a career in the world of space, possibly working for NASA. (Bob Smith | Kitsap News Group)

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