Freshman actors maintain successful careers both academically and theatrically

Alexis Yi, staff writer

Here’s what a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday looks like for freshman Louisa Darr: wake up at 5:30 AM; finish up homework; go to school at 7:00 AM and meet with teachers or study groups; to make an 8:30 AM call time, get picked up by a driver from the Children’s Theatre Company; do warm-ups at the theatre, and get hair and makeup done; put a show on, and then, after, maybe do talkbacks (an informal chat with the audience) or autographs; take off makeup; get driven back to school for Enriched Physics and Student Council; head back to the theatre, do another show; go to a filming session or studio meeting; go home, shower, eat, do homework, and sleep. That last part will probably happen at midnight. Repeat.

An acting career isn’t just a dream for Darr—it’s a reality. Darr, who first started attending theatre workshops she was five, has been involved with so many acting companies and groups that it’s impossible to list them all. The first theatre company she ever worked with was Stages Theatre Company in Chicago, and there she was also involved with numerous dance companies. When she came to Minnesota, Darr worked with the Guthrie Theatre. Now, she’s finishing up a production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas with the Children’s Theatre Company and is also working on set in one of the lead roles of a movie that will come out next spring.

The movie, which has a working title of Frostbite, is a merging of genres: zombie horror and coming-of-age. It’s not the first film that Darr has worked in, but it is the first in which she plays a lead. Her character is a young girl whose brother has become a zombie. The movie will be shown at horror film festivals as well as local theatres, including several AMC venues. Darr said they’re just now getting out of the preliminary stage, which involved studio meetings and green screen tests, usually at night. Now there will be a lot more actual onset time. “Acting on film is so much easier than acting on stage,” Darr said. “You get kind of pampered on film sets . . . Just do a really simple acting scene and just go home.” On the flip side, though, she said, “there is always something about having a live audience.”

In order to improve, Darr said she learns from the more experienced actors around her. “I’ve worked with people that have been on Broadway, I’ve been just asking them how they grow,” Darr said. “I really take it from other actors, because you just don’t have time to go to acting classes.”

Junior Quinn Cowing met Darr while they were both in the cast for Seussical the Musical at Valley View Middle School. Darr played JoJo, the lead. Cowing recalled Darr’s positive attitude and friendliness, as well as her acting talent. “She knows exactly how to develop a character and how to take direction,” Cowing said. “After one of our shows I was feeling like I did horrible but she took the time to reassure me. She was so sweet and understanding.”

Darr has been doing paid gigs in acting and modeling for a long time, and she’s smart with her profits: all the money that Darr makes will go toward her college education. Her first paid project was when she was ten years old, and her commitment to acting has solidified since then. Darr is already looking at acting colleges and universities. “All of that money is going towards college. I know all of my friends when they ask me about that, they’re like, ‘Why don’t you buy AirPods or something?’” Darr said. “Like, naw fam, I’m going to college.”

Due to her packed schedule, a school social life can be difficult to manage. She has several theatre friends, but Darr said she also wants to enjoy high school. “You don’t want to miss out on the high school experience. Like, I love homecoming, I love going to football games, I have a bunch of friends on cheer,” she said. Darr has considered doing online schooling, as many of her theatre friends do, but so far she hasn’t made the switch. As a whole, Darr’s approach towards high school is one to take note of: “Part of acting is getting part of the high school experience, ‘cause you never know when you’re gonna do a show about high school or something,” she said. “I’d rather do that method acting than taking it from kids that actually went to high school.”

Surprisingly enough, Darr isn’t alone in being a child actor at EHS—fellow freshman Aidan Einhorn also has a lot to juggle, and for the same reasons. Einhorn is a cast member of Mary Poppins Jr. with the Stages Theatre Company, and misses large portions of school for shows and rehearsals, like Darr. “We share a few classes and we’ve shared tips and such with each other about how to stay on top of sleep, schoolwork, and friends. It’s super nice to have someone else with similar experiences,” Einhorn said. Einhorn started acting in elementary school and was a member of the Seussical and Aladdin casts with Darr at Valley View Middle School. “You can tell she really loves what she does, she brings professionalism into every production she’s a part of,” he said.

While Einhorn is not sure that he will pursue acting after high school, he knows that right now he’s having the time of his life. “The exhilaration and excitement of being able to perform with such talented people and for so many crowds is something I wouldn’t trade for the world,” he said. Einhorn said that acting has taught him to “learn from your mistakes and to feel grateful for what you have.”

Keeping up such a physically and mentally strenuous schedule requires some serious dedication, and that level of dedication requires a strong source of motivation. For Darr, that source is being able to interact with people through acting. “For me, it’s being able to tell other people’s stories. When you’re on that stage and you’re telling a story that you’re really passionate about . . . and you see how it touches the audience and other people, it’s really worth it,” Darr said.

Darr’s parents have remained supportive through her acting career, though initially, they were skeptical that it could be a legitimate pursuit in adulthood. “My mom, of course, like a lot of Asian moms, wants their kid to be a doctor. Not gonna lie my mom still probably wants me to be a pediatrician ‘cause that was a thing for a while,” Darr said. Surprisingly though, her mom was the one to sign her to her first agency, and once Darr started making money, she said her parents began to realize that acting was a viable possibility for her future. Still, Darr said that school is a priority over acting, and that if her grades drop too low she’ll have to put a hold on acting for a bit.

Spending so much time acting, and putting in so much work inevitably leads to an emotional connection to the art. While this can enhance acting, it opens the door to an emotional vulnerability that often brings insecurities with it. “Actors are some of the most self-conscious people when you talk about yourself . . . your purpose is taking care of yourself,” Darr said. “I mean, when you look at films, people in the film are the prettiest people ever. So you’re always self-conscious when you walk into auditions and you see a bunch of gorgeous people and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not going to get this.’”

An important aspect of Darr’s acting career is her Asian-American identity. Few Asian-American kids pursue theatre, and Darr said that she also feels the pressure from her Asian relatives to choose a different passion. She has been exceptionally pleased by the improvement in representation for Asian Americans in film, but she knows there’s much more to go. Darr has a goal that she holds very close to her heart. “There has not been a single Asian-American Oscar Winner for Best-Leading Actress . . . They’ve only been nominated three times, that’s not even close to getting it,” Darr said. “Within my time, if it’s not me, I’d like to see the first Asian-American win the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar.”

From all her acting experience, Darr has learned valuable life lessons. “I’ve learned that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. I mean, I feel like that’s super cheesy…But some of the best characters in TV shows are the ones that have problems. I know when I go into auditions, I look at every flaw…sometimes that’s what the director wants,” Darr said.