Those who know her outside of theater know Rachel Kline as a dancer-turned-thespian born and raised in Deerwood. To those who attend the Pequot Lakes Community Theater production of "Disney's The Little Mermaid," she'll be known as an anxious, feisty crab called Sebastian.
Kline knew she wanted the role of Sebastian for 18 months, long before casting had started. Director Travis Chaput is a friend, so she knew early on what play he planned to bring to the stage. Together they watched performances of "The Little Mermaid" by other theater groups, and one thing struck Kline about the crab that made her decide this was her character.
“I saw a couple shows with really terrible Sebastians and I thought I could do that better,” Kline said. “I've been saying I'm going to be the crab. That's been my hashtag for the last year.”
Not only that, Sebastian is part of some of the most iconic songs in the Disney production, songs that stick out in the Disney collection as a whole. He's also the anxious foil for most of the plot, providing comedic effect with his eccentricities. Kline thought that made him a fun character.
“He's so funny,” Kline said. “I get to sing two of the biggest songs in the show, or the most iconic songs of the show, which has been really fun.”
The role is demanding, however, as Sebastian is not only part of many of the songs, but the lead vocals for them, including “Under the Sea." That musical number features 36 cast members and an intricate set, all made of vibrant colors. Kline expects this early piece to be one of the audience's favorite scenes, so her part is important. Sebastian has lines in several other big musical numbers.
“My favorite song is probably 'Under the Sea',” Kline said. “The number is huge and there are lots of little surprises people are going to appreciate. I've always loved that number. There's a song called 'If Only' and we sing it as a quartet. Myself, Ariel, King Triton and Prince Eric. It's one of the most beautiful songs in the show, and then 'Kiss the Girl' with Scuttle.”
Kline's role as Sebastian is a time-consuming endeavor, something Kline is familiar with. So familiar in fact, that she and Chaput have a podcast about the all-consuming nature of casting, rehearsal, production parties and shows.
“Travis always had the idea to have a podcast,” Kline said. “We kind of recorded it one day on the off chance and were trying to figure out what to call it. I was there helping with sound and they asked me to come back. I said, 'I can't, I have rehearsal.' We looked at each other and said that was the title. If you're a part of a production, any part, most people ask if you can hang out and it's, 'I can't, I have rehearsal,' or 'I can't, I have audition,' or 'I can't, I have a cast party to go to' or 'I can't because I have a performance'.”
Kline likes to think the reflective, mindful nature of the podcast helps her to improve future performances.
“It's fun post-performance,” Kline said. “We do an episode topic called 'theater reflections' where we reflect on a show and invite some of the cast members and interview them. It's nice to think what you could have done in that performance and then you take that little tidbit and put it toward the next show you are in.”
Kline lives in Brainerd, though she plans to move closer to her son's school, Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point. She grew up in Deerwood where she fell in love with dance classes as early as age 3. In high school at Crosby-Ironton, she expanded her performance interests by joining theater productions, including the school's madrigal dinner “The Feast of Easter Tide," one-act plays and YouTube performances with friends. She nearly went into drama in college.
“My parents were great people and asked if I was going to make any money doing that,” Kline said. “A lot of times the answer is no. I have a degree in business administration and management. Right now I currently work for the Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project as their office coordinator.”
For several years Kline didn't perform on stage, but she got involved with the Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts in Pequot Lakes with encouragement from Craig Friday, who invited her to try out for “The Game's Afoot, Holmes for the Holiday." She was cast as Aggie Wheeler and has been performing with GLAPA ever since.
Her other roles include a bucket list role as Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors," Elizabeth Benning in "Young Frankenstein," Georgeanne Darby in "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress" and Gabriella in "Boeing, Boeing." Performance provides Kline with friendships, her favorite parts of theater.
“I guess (it's) the people,” Kline said. “The ability to be creative and the amount of new people you get to meet. Sometimes it is the only time I get to see some of my friends is if we are in a show together. It's really the people you get to work with and you get to see,”
Kline encourages everyone she can to get involved in theater by volunteering time or trying out for the cast.