On the second floor of their Shorewood Boulevard home Sunday, the Tuttons fell into their practiced duties, moving a toy racetrack to one side of the room, sliding a couch out of the way, turning on two flood lights and attaching a video camera to a tripod. It was here against the dark blue wall that Ryan Tutton, a junior at Shorewood High School, delivered lines for an audition sent over the web to Los Angeles.
Between online auditions, late nights running lines, drives to Chicago and flights to California, the four Tutton kids maintain their social lives and education in Shorewood while building their budding acting careers in theater, television, advertising, modeling and film.
"Sometimes it can be hard, to kind of feel like one foot in, one foot out," Casey Tutton, who said she got hooked on acting when she played the daughter of Jack Davenport and Judy Greer in The Key Man, said. "But also, I think we're all pretty involved here. I love the town and my friends, and I don't really want to give that up."
A family affair
The expanding possibilities of the Internet allow the kids to communicate with professionals around the country and secure callbacks from home, but auditions still require memorizing scripts, developing characters and filming.
"You find there's like a million people just like you, so you have to find a way to make yourself different," Casey said.
The kids' mother Colleen Tutton often acts as their director and agent, managing auditions and coaching them along the way. Colleen enjoys acting, but said it was Ryan's role as Oliver in Cameron Mackintosh's nationally touring production of Oliver Twist that first got the siblings serious about acting.
"Oliver pretty much changed the course of our lives," Colleen said.
Casey traveled with Ryan for part of his tour and said it looked like something she would enjoy, too.
"I guess it's kind of like a family thing," Brady, whose first major role was Tiny Tim in the Marriott Theater's Christmas Carol, said. "One day mom wanted me to try it, and I liked my first show, so it just kinda got bigger and bigger from that."
Waiting on that 'big break'
Brady said his favorite role has been for a film coming out this year, LOL, starring Miley Cyrus. He never got to meet her, though, because his part as an "annoying younger brother" was in a different family, and she was preoccupied on the day they were supposed to meet.
"The day she was supposed to meet Brady was the day she broke up with her boyfriend, so she was crying in the bathroom, and Brady was like, 'It's alright. She can just cry,'" Colleen said.
Although securing roles has become easier with tips they've picked up along the way, the kids said they haven't had a "break," and generally play smaller roles for the big productions like LOL.
"They have to work hard for every role," Colleen said. "They're waiting for their really big thing. They've had smaller roles in big things, but they're waiting for the really big one."
While Casey has aspirations to act professionally into adult life, Ryan wants to pursue an interest in music composition. And even as a fourth grader, Brady has his own goals.
"Getting through elementary school is one," Brady said, laughing, then getting more serious. "I kind of want to be an inventor for Apple. I think I want to keep acting for a few more years, and then I'm going to focus on other things."
Home in Shorewood
While each of the Tuttons is deeply engaged in a career outside Shorewood, they said they choose to stay and endure the long-distance work because of the balance and community they find in the village.
"Sometimes there's a sacrifice for what they do; they'll miss a school dance or something," Colleen said. "That's just the nature of the beast. They try to be as normal as they can. That's the goal."
It helps to have supportive teachers, they all agreed. During trips for callbacks and filming, the kids have emailed Spanish exam videos from a hotel room, sent dozens of emails, and even Skyped with their Shorewood teachers.
"I've never had a teacher that's like, 'that's not going to work,'" Ryan said. "Every time I've gone to talk to a teacher about leaving, they're always on board."
Colleen said they also appreciate Shorewood for the rigor of classes offered.
"We've looked at performing arts high schools, and there aren't any that do a better job than Shorewood," she said. "And Shorewood's good in academics."
"It's the balance that's not really there for other schools," Ryan added.
The kids are also involved in theater productions at school and in Milwaukee. Brady starred in First Stage's Seussical this fall; and Casey and Ryan acted in The Music Man at Skylight Opera Theater this winter.