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Mom on a mission


January 2, 2008

Shorewood native Lori Holton Nash, known to audiences as "Miss Lori," is PBS KIDSí first live host.

Lori Holton Nash makes her rise to PBS KIDS fame sound like childís play.

The Wisconsin native ó sheís a Shorewood High School graduate ó has been acting since she was just 9, when she landed her first role with the Childrenís Theatre of Madison. "The minute I got it, I didnít stop," she says.

Indeed. At age 12, "Miss Lori," as the first-ever live host of PBS KIDS is known, became the youngest scholarship student for classical voice at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.

And even before high school, she answered the Shorewood Playersí call for auditions for "The Fantasticks."

"I really got high up on the list," says Holton Nash, only to be told, "We canít give you this part if youíre not in college or an adult."

Not one to be deterred, Holton Nash, now 37, wound up working at The Skylight in Milwaukee, the former Next Generation Theatre and the old Melody Top, all while still in her teens. "Youíve got to go after your dreams," she says.

For her, that meant auditioning for "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" in New York. "I went to New York just to feel what it would be like. I was just turning 18.

"They cast me in that tour," she says.

Her next dream was the Boston Conservatory, where she earned a bachelorís in musical theater, with honors. But New York beckoned again.

"I was asked to be a part of Hush Productions. Ultimately, I realized the music business wasnít the route I wanted to go," she says.

Neither was television. "L.A. and I werenít good friends," she says. "Youíre asked to be a bimbo unless proven otherwise."

But thatís where she met her husband, Larry Nash, and the two decided to settle in Chicago and raise their family; the two have three children ó Skyler, Kaiann and Jaedyn. Thatís also where Holton Nash decided her career needed refocusing.

"Itís almost like your DNA changes," Nash says of having children. "Doing eight shows a week was no longer the be-all and end-all."

Instead, spending time with her children was priority No. 1. "I would always have a stroller full of toys. Everyone knew me as ĎMiss Lori.í"

Founding The C.A.M.P.U.S. Inc. (Celebrating Artistry Musicality Physicality United Successfully), a recreational arts program for families, seemed the next logical dream. So did her segue to PBS KIDS last year. "I really found my true path," she says.

Chosen among 1,500 applicants after a nationwide search, Nash has two full seasons filmed already.

"Itís great to be part of a network thatís giving back to children," she says.