South Christian grad takes the lead in upcoming Grand Rapids Civic Theatre production

In character: Audrey Filson as Tracy Lord in Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s “The Philadelphia.”

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma


When actress and South Christian graduate Audrey Filson talks about Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Philadelphia Story,” she likes to refer to it as “The Education of Tracy Lord.”


“Tracy has a pretty well developed sense of morality,” said Filson, who portrays the headstrong and spoiled daughter of a privileged family in the production that runs through Jan. 29. “She starts with a world view of black and white and as she goes through the story, she starts to see that not everything falls that way.”


And Filson can relate well to her character’s change of view. Bitten by the acting bug at the age of nine when she went to see Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s production of “Peter Pan,” Filson started auditioning for shows and even decided to make acting a career after graduating high school in 2006. But a few years ago, Filson, who parents live in Kentwood, moved back to Grand Rapids, enrolled in graduate school and is now a counselor at the non-profit 3rd Chair.


“I think everyone’s life changes,” Filson said. “You receive new information and other interactions all of which makes you take a look at who actually am I. I’m still learning and through that I have added this new part to my life and I am still able to incorporate the acting into that as well.”


Acting up: Audrey Filson in rehearsal. (Photos courtesy of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre)

The acting certainly bug did not leave Filson and she periodically checks out the shows coming up at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre to see if there is a part that might be a good fit, which was the case of Tracy Lord in “The Philadelphia Story.”


Originally written for Katharine Hepburn, the story takes place in 1939 and centers around Tracy Lord, a Philadelphia socialite. After a recent divorce, she is engaged to a wealthy snob. A society weekly sends a reporter and female photographer to cover the wedding with Tracy having feelings for the reporter. All is going well, until Tracy and the reporter are caught by her fiancée and ex-husband taking an evening swim.


“When I read the script, I was very intrigued by the character in that she was complicated but someone you could grow to love,” Filson said, adding that Tracy is a woman before her time as by 1939’s as well as today’s standards she would be considered a strong and independent person.


The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre production stays true to the original script with the setting in the late 1903s and while a period piece, Filson said the story of relationships will resonate well with today’s audience.


“It’s a romantic comedy,” Filson said, noting that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. “It’s a wonderful story that allows the audience to escape from their life and journey with the character as she learns about humanity and all the people in her life, providing lessons that are still great for the community today.”


The story also takes place in June, which according to Filson “might warm you up on these cold January days. At least, I am going with that.”