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Essex High Grad Locks Up a TV Role

State of the Arts

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What's a nice girl from Essex doing in a show like this? The role is Sherry, the toughest woman and leader of the gang in the prison where Erica Kane (Susan Lucci's character) is locked up. Sherry confronts and threatens Erica in the prison laundry room. So reads in part the email description from former Vermonter Catherine Eaton, now an actor and playwright living in New York City. And, yes, the show is ABC's long-running soap "All My Children." Eaton's debut was on Monday, April 21, and her character, she assures, will appear in other episodes.

Why is Erica in prison? Don't ask me; I've never seen a soap opera in my life. On the phone from New York, Eaton confesses with a laugh that she wasn't exactly a fan herself before taking the role. But a girl's gotta work, and a stint in a popular TV drama is nothing to sneeze at. That said, Eaton - a 1990 Essex High School graduate - epitomizes the word "busy." Last December her one-woman show, Corsetless, premiered in Buffalo and had a staged reading at Lincoln Center in NYC. She's crossing her fingers that one of "a number of companies" that have seen the play will give it an off-Broadway run. She's also a partner in what she calls a "nascent" production house, Stir, which "has limited funding but is rich in talent."

Eaton says she's close to her mother, Susan Eaton, and comes home to visit as often as possible. For her 30th birthday, she gave herself the present of hiking the entire Long Trail. "I ache for that natural splendor when I'm in New York," Eaton says.

As it happens, Corsetless was written in Vermont. The central character is Olivia, a brilliant but troubled woman in a sanitarium who communicates exclusively using words from Shakespeare. The idea came to Eaton one night when she was home helping her mother, and "I started looking at Shakespeare's complete works," she recalls. "I started tearing out pages and putting them on the wall. In two weeks, I had the character and themes of Corsetless."

Whether or not being in the Green Mountain State inspired this burst of play writing, Eaton is quick to credit her high school theater experience with "giving me the confidence to continue with acting." Her first professional job was at the Dorset Theater Festival. "I'm very connected to Vermont," Eaton concludes. "If I could live there and do what I do, I would."

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