CAMDEN—The day I met 17-year-old Isabelle Olson, she was soft spoken, apologizing for her voice, because she was fighting a cold. That’s generally not a problem when you’re a senior in high school and just have to get through the school day. But, Isabelle is one of the lead actors in the CHRHS play Anything Goes, staged at the Strom Auditorium—and a strained voice is not ideal when you’re singing soprano.
However, she’s already a professional and knows the show must go on.
A full day of schoolwork and nightly rehearsals aren’t her only challenge. Isabelle lives on Islesboro and in order to participate in theater, she must travel back and forth on the ferry and stay at a family’s friends, going home to see her family on the weekends.
“The ferry leaves at 5 p.m. so when we have rehearsals later than five, which has basically been the last two weeks, I stay on the mainland,” she said.
“I live out of my duffle bag,” she said. “I’m in a limbo between two families, so I just try to self-parent. Some days I’m here when school starts to 10 at night. I’m always really excited to go home, but during the week, I don’t even have time to be homesick.”
This is Isabelle’s fourth year in theater and she not only has moved from ensemble to lead roles, she has just been named “Student of the Month” from the CHRHS Visual and Performing Arts Department, which stated, “[Isabelle] shows her love of the arts by going the extra mile to be involved at CHRHS: traveling across the bay each week to get to Camden Hills, and hosting fundraising concerts ...”
Having always been interested in theater, she first began performing in stage productions as a freshman at CHRHS. On stage, Isabelle has played a variety of roles from a featured singer role in The Addams Family, to Mary Robert in Sister Act and Vanessa in In The Heights. With her soprano voice, Isabelle will be singing the part of Hope Harcourt in the CHRHS production of Anything Goes, which she says “is a lot like the movie Titanic, but no one dies in the end.”
Her part in the plot of this classic 1930s slapstick comedy, which is set on a luxury cruise ship (imaginatively staged at the Strom), is wealthy debutante Hope Harcourt, the long lost love interest of Billy Crocker (Caleb Edwards), who has stowed away in hopes of wooing her back. However, Hope is engaged to be married to a stuffy Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Isaih Doble).
“She’s a lot like Rose in Titanic as well,” she said. “She’s very much grown up in a society where you do certain things a certain way. She’s rebellious, but only in ways the audience sees.”
Beyond theater, Isabelle has been a regular member of the CHRHS select choruses – both Women’s Choir and Chamber Singers, a member of Chorale, and has performed a myriad of solos at both the annual Dessert Cabaret and Fine Arts Night.
And not unsurprisingly, one more aspect of the theater is her hobby: stage makeup. She has been integral in helping with make-up during the CHRHS winter one-act plays and spring plays.
“I do my own makeup for my character every night as well as for my love interest. It’s sort of our pre-show ritual,” she said.
She has been a counselor for local music theater camps, and hopes to study musical theater in college.
“I wouldn’t mind going to Ithaca, in the middle of nowhere, as long as it is different from Maine. Or Boston. I’ve been to New York and have seen a lot of Broadway plays there, but I think it would be too overwhelming for me.”
Sometimes even the most focused and productive of us can take a look at Isabelle’s breakneck schedule and say “How do you do it?” After all, with relationships, family dynamics, getting schoolwork done, tests prepared for and the adult pressure of putting on a play night after night, it has got to get to certain people.
“Oh there are meltdowns,” she said. “That goes with theater.”
“I’m the kind of person who needs at least three hours of silence after a show wraps,” she said. “I’m both an introvert and an extrovert. You need to be an introvert to get into a character’s emotions and feeling and you need to be an extrovert to convey that to the audience, but, I have to decompress after.”
Anything Goes is on its last run this weekend. Details can be found in our Weekend Spotlight. Additional photography provided by www.martistonephotography.com
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org