The actress who plays Mother Superior in Sister Act will look familiar to regular RTG audiences, but they have never quite seen her like this. “I am usually cast as someone who is brassy and loud and bold,” says Robbyn Wilks, “and it will be a real stretch for me to do the Mother Superior role in Sister Act. But I welcome the challenge and hope it will make me a more versatile actress.”
Robbyn always loved singing, and sang in children’s choirs, adult choirs and sang many solos. She grew up in Raymond and attended Union Grove High School where she played saxophone in the pit band for the school’s musicals her first two years of high school. “When I was a junior, I read for a part in Oklahoma, and ended up playing Laurie,” Robbyn recalls. “I loved every minute of it, and I was in Pippin my senior year. Then my love of theatre went into the background, while I did a year of college, then returned to the Union Grove area, got married, had two children and worked a full-time job.”
Robbyn’s friend Bob Benson urged her to audition for The Music Man in 2005. Robbyn ended up in the cast, as part of the ensemble, and the joy of doing live theatre resurfaced. “I was scared to be on stage for The Music Man,” Robbyn says, “but it turned out to be so much fun. I bonded with a group of fellow volunteers who have become my friends and second family. I found another place where I feel at home.”
In all three years of Scrooge the Musical (2005 – 2007) Robbyn was in the ensemble. Audiences may remember the stripper Mazeppa who played a trumpet in the musical Gypsy in 2007. That was Robbyn in another featured role. She was in Beauty in the Beast in 2008. Then came the summer musical Honky Tonk Angels in 2009, one of Robbyn’s favorite roles.
“I love country music, so that show was right in my wheelhouse,” she says. “With such a small cast of three women, we became so close. The role of Angela was another bold character, who wasn’t afraid of what people thought of her. It was great that I got to sing ‘Harper Valley PTA.’ Then came one of my favorite shows, I Do, I Do in 2011. Again, that was a small cast, just Bob Benson and me, and in addition to singing so many songs, it included a lot of acting, to show the many facets of a marriage.”
Robbyn was in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2013), Les Miserables (2014), The Dixie Swim Club (2015) (“my first non-musical”), Calendar Girls (2015) (“I can now say I’ve been on stage naked!”), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2017).
About Joseph, Robbyn says she was so amazed to be part of that brilliant cast with so many talented people. In addition to having many roles in the ensemble, from being a wife to being an Egyptian, Robbyn also played Mrs. Potiphar, another brash and aggressive female.
Backstage Robbyn has been a busy volunteer, too. She worked props in both versions of Willy Wonka, for Chicago and for the second Beauty and the Beast. She was assistant stage manager in Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell, ran sound for A Night at the Nutcracker, and ran lights for a couple of Children’s Theatre shows. She also ushers and serves on the nominating committee. “I work full time for We Energies,” Robbyn explains, “and my husband is a farmer, so I am selective about what time of year I choose to audition to be in a show or work on crew.”
Playing Mother Superior in Sister Act is making Robbyn work hard. “I am not Catholic, so I had to learn a lot about the body language and how to play a nun. I’ve usually had very comic roles, and this one is very serious. I am the antagonist and contrast to the character of Deloris, and I have to be very refined, straight-laced and buttoned up. So far rehearsals have been a ball. It will sound and look awesome, with talented people in the cast and great volunteers on the crew. Besides great music, this show has a wonderful story, and I’m sure audiences will love that.”
Robbyn feels drawn back to the Racine Theatre Guild because she loves that every show is top quality. “If I devote so much time for all the rehearsals, especially for a musical, I know I will be in a great show. I so much appreciate the many volunteers who work unseen to make each show a success. Being in a big musical means I get to spend time with my Guild family, and get to know new people, too, who will also become family. I love my time at the RTG.”
And the RTG loves it when Robbyn spends time at the RTG!