Sunday, June 22, 2014

“Peanuts” interview: Tracy Shaw (Lucy in Christmas)

How old were you (then known as Tracy Stratford) when you portrayed Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas?


Where were you living at the time?

We lived in the San Fernando Valley—Woodland Hills, CA.

Were you a Peanuts fan?

Perhaps—I read the comics, but I don’t think that was my favorite. I liked Broom-Hilda the witch.

How were you hired?

I assume I went on an interview, but don’t recall. I don’t remember that interview, so perhaps it was a direct hire.

What other shows had you appeared in?

A couple of Twilight Zones, a few other series, and some movies.

Any funny stories from the experience?

Just Bill Melendez’s (Spanish) accent affecting how lines were said—particularly Linus’s when responding to Lucy’s fist giving him five good reasons to get rid of his blanket!

Was anything hard about the process?

Nope. It was fun.

Did you record in the same room at the same time as the other actors?

Chris Shea, Peter Robbins, and I were together around the mic with Bill Melendez directing and coaching us.

If you got to meet Charles Schulz, how was that?

I never met Mr. Schulz. He was in San Francisco and we were in L.A.

What did you think of the finished show?

I liked the music the best. The show was fun, but I never took it too seriously.

What did your parents think?

My parents loved it—they were very proud—but I don’t think anyone had any idea of how iconic the show would become.

What did your friends think?

My friends were ambivalent. They may have liked the show, but it’s never anything we talked about, really. I just worked, and that was it.

What were you paid?

I have no idea.

Why was that the only Peanuts special you worked on?

We did voiceovers for commercials for a couple of years for a variety of companies, but no other specials for me. At 12, my voice had gotten “too old.”

Did you or your family stay in touch with anyone else from the cast?

No, we/I did not.

Have you had any fun
Peanuts moments since (a reaction when someone you meet discovers you had a role in it, Halloween costume, etc.)?

It’s a topic at school randomly. Kids will find out and ask if it’s true.

Did you do any non-
Peanuts voice work/acting after this?

Yes, I did some TV shows and a couple of Disney movies and TV. I did a lot of dancing and ballet as well.

What are you doing these days?

I am a high school librarian. I’ve also taught and coached drama for many years. I find I prefer directing to acting—especially live theatre.

What has been your career highlight so far?

I have loved working with students. I’ve directed plays with students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and some productions were with all grade levels in one show. I’ve also directed community theatre with adults/students, and that was a lot of fun. I love being in the library, as it’s a job that requires constant learning to keep up with the changing technology. I love collaborating with staff and my students to help them be creative and prep for college. But honestly, my family is the best part of my life. I have two fantastic daughters, two wonderful son-in-laws, two grandsons who are so fun, smart, and creative, and we even have two “grand-doggers.” :)

Where do you live?

Washington State, up near the Canadian border.

Tracy (left) and her sisters

If you’re married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were part of this cultural institution?

He knew me when we were in middle school, so it was common knowledge and no big deal.

What do your kids think of your
Peanuts connection?

My girls take it in stride—we never made it a big deal, as I did it when I was little. But they think it’s cool. When I told my oldest daughter (who was three at the time) that the voice of Lucy was me, she said “It is not.” And that was that. So it’s never been a big deal at our house.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, when and for what publication?

Nope, not really. [NOTE: See next answer.] I’m sure it’s come up, and it’s come up when we were doing radio interviews with my drama kids for the upcoming productions when I lived in Leavenworth (WA). It’s more of a novelty thing, but not a big deal.

Do you still have any ongoing connection (professionally or personally) to Peanuts?

No, not really. They did a big thing in 2001 so I went to San Francisco and then L.A. with the whole Peanuts team, as well as all the kids who’d ever been in the shows. That was the first time I’d met some of the people—like Sally Dryer, who was Lucy after me. She lived in San Francisco at the time I was Lucy, and she was Sally. [NOTE: In the Christmas show, Cathy Steinberg played Sally. Confusing with the names!]

The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas (2001)

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?

No and no!

How do you look back on the experience?

It was a unique experience growing up—it had its own set of challenges, but I always enjoyed the actual work. I learned so much from all the people I worked with over the years. I learned much about the craft of acting itself, about the work, about directing. But my friends kept me (or at least tried!) to keep me grounded. I had horses, did ballet, sports at school, and had lots of other things I did and was involved in at school and with friends. And there were a lot of kids in Southern California who either acted or wanted to act. Some let it go to their heads, some didn’t; I tried to be one who didn’t—and in large part that was due to my friends. Hollywood is a very easy place to become full of yourself or “ungrounded” so I am so grateful to my friends for helping me stay real.

Anything you’d like to add?

When I was working as a kid, I met lots of kids who were out-of-control snobs; I replaced a little girl on The New Loretta Young Show because of that. My family and friends did a pretty good job [reminding me that] “I am a kid who happens to act” as opposed to “I’m an Acting Kid.”

It’s easy to become egotistical when while you are working you are constantly told how “great” you are. I’ve known many actors (kids and adults) who’ve lost themselves in drugs, alcohol, or living in the past—i.e. dressing up as your character and renting yourself out at parties, which doesn’t suit my temperament or personality. I am way too shy for that kind of thing, which is sort of why it took me so long to respond and then even agree to do this.

I am truly flattered and humbled to be a part of A Charlie Brown Christmas—Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez were so kind to all of us; it really was a unique experience that very few kids get to have. I’m assuming they thought I had the talent and brattiness for Lucy (who was terrifically fun to be), and it’s a part of who I am—but just a part. I don’t really remember jumping through hoops in order to be a part of that show—I just remember the doing of it, which was nothing but fun.

When I interviewed for the drama coaching position in Leavenworth, the principal became ecstatic over a photo I brought: me working with Walter Brennan in a Disney movie. I think that’s why I got the job! So my acting experiences have opened some doors for me. But for me, as a child, it was just a “normal” part of my growing up. And sometimes I would have rather stayed home to play than going on interviews!

I feel thankful and blessed as to where I am now as a result of my experiences. Many other actors have not been as fortunate. I feel like almost every day of my adulthood has been a joy.

So it’s always with a bit of trepidation that I answer personal questions about my acting as a child. While I had some great experiences, I, too, suffered through some depression when I was no longer little, when they could hire an 18-year-old who looked 13 so they wouldn’t have to abide by the child labor laws. All of a sudden there’s a void—and that can be a big trap for some. Luckily, for me, it was short-lived and I found other outlets, venues, and activities.


drlerner said...

How can I contact Tracy Stratford for an autograph possibly? Dr Lerner

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Dr. Lerner, please email me:

DaleFromChelsea said...

I went to elementary and junior high school with Tracy. It's great to hear she stayed grounded during the whole process.