Gretna High School freshman Chloe Irwin was introduced to theater by her grandmother, Carolee Groux. “I got into community theater because my grandma took me to a lot of shows and that’s how I got interested.”
Soon after, Irwin went to her first audition for The Christmas Carol at Omaha Community Playhouse. “We got to the rehearsal and there’s just billions of kids,” says Chloe’s mother, Kelly Groux, an RN at Methodist Women’s Hospital.
Young Irwin, then age 10, stood out from the crowd. She got the part and dove into a robust child-acting career. This busy starlet regularly lights up the stage at places such as OCP, The Rose Theater and Nebraska Shakespeare. Her most recent roles include parts in Dollmaker’s Gift and Christmas Carol.
This spring, she went a month without performing onstage. “It’s one of the most bizarre things ever, like it never happens,” she says.
Like most children, she watched television, but her takeaway was unique. “That’s where the wanting began,” she says. “The wanting to get better at what I’m doing and it built from that.”
Her desire mixed with talent is not without work. “I’m also researching and practicing and rehearsing,” Irwin says. “I’m doing more and more shows and going to rehearsals and building up my public speaking skills.”
She has also joined the speech team at school and has won multiple first-place awards in dramatic interpretation, as well as winning an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Outstanding Youth Performer for Parade.
“Speech is like a ‘choose your adventure,’ which is really interesting and you can advocate for whatever you feel needs more voice,” Irwin says.
Groux says that as a child, Irwin was always a free thinker and expressed herself differently through her clothing choices, such as wearing a shawl as a skirt and a swimsuit when she wasn’t swimming. Chloe enjoys riding her bike to Goodwill to create her fun outfits. For this appointment at Crane Coffee near Dundee, the teenager wore a minimalist, industrial-type dress paired with Doc Marten boots. “You find the weird stuff that no one would wear.”
Theater gives her purpose. “I feel like without being able to do community theater, I don’t really know what I would be doing,” Irwin says. “It’s what I love and kind of my life.” She enjoys being able to use theater to tell stories. “It really inspires me to be able to let peoples’ voices be heard and to help people be understood and be advocated for in areas where they don’t feel comfortable,” she says.
“So many people may not be able to feel they can speak out for what they want or what they believe in or what they need in the world,” Irwin says. “I think being able to do that through theater and the arts is really awesome.” She particularly enjoyed telling the story, through her acting, of a transgender journey in Mama’s Girls for SNAP Productions.
Her career has not been without a glitch in the road. She was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1 in 2014. At the time, she was in the production of A Wrinkle in Time. While for many, this setback may have taken them out of the production, Irwin was able to get exactly the help and medicine she needed due to her mother being a nurse, and she was able to return to the stage to finish the production until she could begin a more structured plan of care.
She is thankful for the opportunities Omaha community theater allows her. “We have so many talented people running theaters and so many different opportunities and I think it’s so inspiring.”
Irwin is continuing her life’s passion this summer, playing Younger Dumaine in All’s Well That Ends Well at Shakespeare on the Green July 5 and 7.
Visit nebraskashakespeare.com for more information about the play in which Irwin performs this summer.
This article was printed in the July/August 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.