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Singing with humans is joyous...

By: Aubrey Hawkinson - Martha | The Secret Garden

My name is Aubrey Hawkinson and I have the pleasure of playing Martha in The Secret Garden The Musical - my first ever production with Decatur Underground Theater - DUT. I moved to Decatur four years ago (right before the pandemic) from Los Angeles, but I have been involved with music and theater all around the country. My degrees are in opera, and I've been blessed with many amazing performance experiences with so many amazing performers and vocal artists in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and California. I've been lucky enough to sing with the New York philharmonic orchestra in premiere venues and was in a televised production of Carmen at the Ford Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

When I moved with my family to Decatur, I was anxious to find opportunities to perform, and then the world shut down. Singing was outlawed. So was theater. After a while, live theater felt like a distant dream. Since the world reopened, I've been so grateful for any chance I get to sing in the presence of fellow music lovers.

The act of singing with other humans is healing and joyous, and I never take it for granted.

Community theater is a unique experience that even professionals don't always get a taste of. Professional performers at the top houses in the country get applause at the end of each show, but community theater performers get applause from people who genuinely love them. It's an amazing feeling to know a truly loving group of family and friends are the ones sending the energy back to you on stage. The Secret Garden character 'Martha' is such an amazing character, and I'm thrilled to bring her to life.

I have an interesting history with my character Martha's song Hold On. Back when I was around 10 years old, our church put on a variety show, and one of the teenage church members sang Hold On. I had never heard the song before, and I was so impressed by its power and gorgeous melody. I asked the girl's mother what the song was, and she said, "oh, my girl wrote that." I was stunned! It was such an amazing song for a teenager from middle-of-nowhere Arizona to have written.

I took it upon myself to learn the song from hearing her sing it in rehearsals and on the VHS recording (yes, kids, that used to be a thing) of the performance.

A week or so later, my friend's mother was in the hospital, and we went to visit her. I sang her that amazing song that the girl from my church had written, and it made her cry. YEARS later, I heard a student sing Hold On in a university recital, and I was floored. How did she know that church kid's song?!?!? I looked at the program and saw that Hold On was written by someone named Lucy Simon!

I had been lied to. My whole world was a sham.

But it was FAR more believable that Hold On was not written by that church teenager. It made sense.

I've absolutely loved getting to know the Decatur community and cast members of Decatur Underground Theater ( DUT ). I'm also thrilled to be performing with fellow castmates Christian and Alicia Jackson. My husband and I work at Millikin and knew Christian and Alicia as former Millikin students. My husband mentored Christian during his first professional years as a teacher, and I actually graded Alicia's senior recital (which was, of course, phenomenal). It's been a joy to work with them as well as everyone else in this production of The Secret Garden The Musical. The Secret Garden story is near and dear to my heart as I share a kinship with the character of Colin.

I lost my mother at the age of 4, and the character of Lilly is so similar to my mother's spirit. Every time she appears, it is a tearful catharsis for my adult self. It's such a beautiful story that is relatable to so many because, as a wise man once said, "remember that everyone is always in some stage of grieving".

One who may be grieving the loss of a loved one, grieving in a time of transition, or even feeling stuck in a chapter of life can relate to someone in this story.

There will be many healing tears had by the audience.

DUT is Decatur's Premier Musical Theater Company, bringing Awesome Musical Theater to Decatur, IL Since 2010.

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