From Minute Clerk to Actress

Bonny Downs quietly works in her own persona as a minute clerk at the Tulsa County Courthouse.
But she is stepping out of her own quiet personality as she assumes the lead female role of Kate in Theater Tulsa’s production of ‘‘Love, Sex and the IRS.’’
The production runs through Saturday at the Liddy Doenges Theatre in Tulsa’s Performing Arts Theatre. Show time is 8 p.m.
‘‘Kate is very quick witted, stylish, popular, the kind of girl that might have been the high school queen,’’ she said. ‘‘I am quiet, reserved.’’
This is her first role with Theatre Tulsa and one of few lead roles she has had since her high school days at Oklahoma Christian Academy in 1996.
She also has performed with the Broken Arrow Theatre and Heller Theatre in Tulsa.
Her stage role is a sharp contrast to her day job responsibilities as Drug Court minute clerk for Judge Sarah Day Smith.
She applied for the position when she came to Tulsa in September 2006.
‘‘I had moved here from the Branson, Mo. area and was looking for full-time employment that was not in sales or telemarketing,’’ Downs continued. ‘‘It was a stroke of luck that I was hired on the same day that I interviewed.’’
Downs is careful to keep the roles of minute clerk and actress separate.
When she is at the courthouse, she is totally focused on her work, forgetting her stage life. That changes when she goes to the theatre where she focuses entirely upon the role she has been cast in.
Downs is attracted to community theatre because she feels it helps bring culture to the community and opens doors for almost anyone wanting to be on stage.
Community theatre performers treat their roles as seriously as professionals, she said. Unfortunately, too many people think participants are amateurs. Everyone involved is involved for their own enjoyment and they want others to appreciate their efforts. That makes a big difference.
Getting her first taste of being on stage in high school, Downs majored in communications with emphasis in theatre at Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond.
She actually was introduced to plays when she attended Judd Theatre productions with her parents in Oklahoma City.
‘‘I thought that being on stage looked like fun, but I could never perform before people,’’ Downs said.
That changed when she was in high school when there was an opening in the production ‘‘Beauty and the Beast.’’
The high school director was desperately looking for someone to fill the role of the old woman who would change the prince into a beast at the beginning of the play and back to the prince at the end, she said. It was not done in Disney style.
Despite being terrified at the beginning, Downs was hooked on the stage when the final curtain dropped on Beauty and the Beast.
‘‘It was fun casting spells on stage,’’ she said. From that small part, she went on to college with thoughts of becoming a journalist or working in graphic design. College plays came her way and she was cast a male role as Mr. Gundy in the Raggedy Ann and Andy production. She also realized that her school offered a degree in theatre.
Downs attended graduate school for a time with emphasis on stage design.
But her interest in theatre spilled over after leaving college and she was able to work with acting professionals. That included an internship at the Summer Repertoire Theatre in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Since it’s difficult to find full time work in the theatre in Tulsa, Downs has turned her love for the stage to a hobby than a professional aspiration.
She tracks auditions and shows up when they are held.
Usually Downs is a character actress like the best friend or the crazy old lady next door. The role as Kate is a stretch for her because she had fallen into a supporting role groove.
The challenge, she said, is stepping out of that comfort zone while drawing on previous stage experiences.
Downs was in two Broken Arrow Playhouse productions, the first an Agatha Christie thriller ‘‘Cards on the Table’’ followed by ‘‘Hide and Shriek.’’
Her first lead role was in Oklahoma City when she was Mother Hicks in the play ‘‘Mother Hicks.’’
Whether or not Downs works as a professional actress has yet to be seen.
But she also feels she would ‘‘go crazy’’ without opportunities to perform.
‘‘I don’t make predictions about my future,’’ she said. That has been tried and sometimes they don’t turn out as well as expected while others are better than anticipated.
Right now she is encouraging people to see the Love, Sex and the IRS, a play that ‘‘will be a funny experience.’’

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