Former Clinton resident Amy Walker made her debut as an actor playing the part of baby Jesus in a church production well before she learned to walk.
Her mother, Claudia, jokingly recalled her three-month-old daughter’s artistic choice to portray the newborn savior as “not so meek and mild,” exercising her lungs in the middle of the pageant.
By the time she celebrated her sixth birthday, Claudia Walker recalled that her daughter’s interest and passion for the theatrical was evident, with numerous Sunday productions of “The Little Mermaid” complete with costumes, sets and original songs.
At age eight, Walker took on a much more advanced role when she convinced a director to allow her to play a disciple and crowd member in an all-adult, non-speaking production of a passion play at church.
“I would always sob after every performance,” Walker recalled during a phone conversation from her home in Los Angeles. “There were no words, just our emotions.”
Walker’s keen artistic talent continued to flourish on stages throughout South Whidbey including South Whidbey High School and Whidbey Children’s Theater, which, at the time, was located in Martha Murphy’s barn.
“I did everything I could possibly get my hands on,” she said.
A few years later in 2008, Walker, who had become a professional actor, sat down in front of her computer in her former Philadelphia home and recorded a two-and-a-half-minute YouTube video which would change her career and her life.
In a single camera shot, Walker embodies 21 distinct characters, effortlessly transitioning through 21 accents ranging from Czech to Texan and Australian to Mid-Atlantic.
Her humble intention was to link the performance to casting directors in order to demonstrate her versatility.
But in those two minutes and 35 seconds, Walker catapulted herself into the national spotlight. Soon she was known throughout and beyond the World Wide Web. “21 Accents” has garnered the attention of over 10 million viewers; she has appeared on The Today Show and Inside Edition; she has given a TED Talk; and collaborated on an album with famed White Stripes singer Jack White.
Beyond the 15 minutes of fame granted to many a YouTube celebrity, Walker has maintained a strong presence as a performer both on and offline with a series of popular videos and acclaimed projects such as her one-woman show, “Amy Walker: Inside Out — A One-Woman Variety Show with Special Guests.”
Walker first wrote and performed the show at the Clyde Theatre in 2007. On Saturday, March 7, she will be returning to Langley for a second, but entirely different, showing.
The performance will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at the Clyde Theatre. Tickets cost $10 for youth and $20 for adults. The box office opens at 1 p.m. Her mother and George Henny will be joining as guest performers.
The show’s latest incarnation received a great deal of praise upon its debut in January in the San Francisco Bay area, prompting Walker’s decision to embark on an international tour.
Thus far, she plans to visit Australia, England, New York and Mexico as well as performances on Whidbey and in Seattle and Los Angeles.
“Performing uses everything I have; it uses all of my fascination and analytical skills,” Walker said.
In addition to her performances, which include dance and song as well as acting, Walker has dedicated much effort to exhibiting and spreading the notion of “courageous compassion.”
The idea is one present in her work, as well as her personal life. Walker explained that, as an actor, it is important for her to be able to delve into a character who may be entirely different from herself, who may be contemptible or villainous, of a different time or place, or who may be differently abled.
Claudia Walker noted that her daughter has demonstrated this courageous compassion throughout her life, notably in her performance as Hellen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” at age 16, the first theatrical performance at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
Walker explained that taking on a new character requires her to delve into another way of life, to be empathetic to individuals whose actions may be difficult to comprehend.
“I feel like it is the deepest way I can understand someone else’s perspective,” she said. “It’s like I’m a church organ with all these different pipes.”
She explained that, having established herself as a versatile performer, it is her ultimate goal to play a multifaceted character in a biopic or original television show, something which requires her to adopt specific physical and verbal parameters.
“It takes courage to really go there and not just judge that character, to see the humanity and see that we all have that potential to do beautiful, horrific things,” she said.
The theme of her show, “the unity in our diversity,” exemplifies this idea.
“We are all made of the same potential, the same source energy,” Walker said. “I do what I do to remind you that you can do what you do. It’s not about me or anybody else being special at the expense of anybody. We are all special.”
Walker added that, as a performer, she feels a responsibility to empower others. She does this both through live performances and YouTube videos, including a recent and very personal entry discussing depression and suicide prevention as well as her choice of roles which convey a strong message.
“It is terrifying to me,” she said of the handful of journal-style YouTube videos, “But it is part of why I am here, to live some of that out loud.”
Of her upcoming Clyde performance, Walker noted that she hopes audience members will be able to experience a sense of community, fun and unity.
“I love it when they walk out uplifted,” Walker said.