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Sophomore Grace Anderson and her co-star Trevor Hendrix say hello to young fans at an autograph signing event for kids.

Long hours, large rewards

Sophomore Grace Anderson plays Belle

All the world’s a stage — at least it has been this winter for Minnehaha Academy sophomore Grace Anderson.

Forty-eight performances, weeks of practices and rehearsals have made for a frenetic but exciting schedule enabling Anderson to do what she loves to do: Act.

Grace Anderson signs autographs for adoring young fans at Stages Theatre in Hopkins. Photo by Annika Johnson.

Anderson was recently cast in the lead role of Belle for Stages Theatre’s presentation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. This is Anderson’s biggest role to date.

Having acted for eight years, Anderson has performed in a variety of plays and musicals such as: Violet, The Little Mermaid, Shrek, Peter Pan, Dear Edwina, Junie B., Wayside School and more.

“I was in my first show when I was nine at a community theater and ever since then, I just wanted to be in every single show that I could be in,” said Anderson. “So I just started auditioning around the Twin Cities and started getting involved with as many theaters as possible. But ever since I was really little, I’ve been singing, which has fed into the musical theater track. I would take classes at children’s theater from a young age. I always kind of had an interest in it and when I was in my first show, that’s when everything started to go from there.”

Her mother Laurie DeMartino Anderson noticed Anderson’s interest in theater from a young age which was sparked when she was cast in one of her earliest plays.

“Like most kids, she tried many different activities (including sports) when she was much younger,” said DeMartino Anderson.

“It was clear that she was drawn to anything and everything involving music, books and storytelling. She started taking Suzuki piano lessons when she was three years old. And she loved to watch musicals and reenact scenes. When she was 9, Karen Karpenko was directing a community theatre production of Hello Dolly, and she cast Grace in the ensemble, that was the beginning of her love of acting in musical theatre.”

For many people, the schedule and pace of theater life might be overwhelming, but for Anderson, it’s an act of love.

“I have such a passion for drama and theatre,” said Anderson. “What drives me is the motivation to do what I love. When you find something that you really love to do, you are motivated to do it and put everything you have into it. That’s why I go at it with such a force and such a passion.”

Performances happen almost every day of the week and some days include multiple performances.

Practices and plays can even take place during school hours, which adds extra difficulty.  It takes passion and motivation to excel at acting — and Anderson’s directors knows she has what it takes.

“Grace’s work ethic is second to none,” said Nicholas Freeman, film and acting teacher at Minnehaha. “She comes in always prepared, she comes in ready to work, she knows how to have fun but she’s able to stay focused enough on the work that we need to do at rehearsals.

“It always puts her a bit ahead of the race because she does her homework and comes in knowing that she’s got to bring her A game to rehearsal.”
It is this kind of drive that helps Anderson to excel in everything she does. Be it a discussion in class, a presentation or difficult choreography, she always brings her best.

“She’s all ready to go,” said Trent Chiodo, a cast mate in Minnehaha productions. “She gets her lines memorized pretty quick and she has everything organized and marked up…She’s focused, but she can have fun, too.”

Anderson’s passion for acting is evident in her performance, work ethic and hard work on and off the stage. With such demanding hours, Anderson has to focus to ensure she has time to get everything done. Many nights, homework can’t happen until 9pm or later.

“[To balance everything] you just take it one day at a time,” said Anderson.

“I just have to stay really on top of it. I love acting so much and school of course. They’re both really big parts of my life. I almost feel like I have two different lives: a school life and a theater life. I just kind of view them separately, I go at them in different ways.

“When I’m at school I have to give that one hundred percent of my mindset, and I’m there and when I’m at theater I give that one hundred percent of my focus. In all my free time I catch up on the other one, the one that I’m not doing.”
With a strong work ethic on and off the stage, Anderson is ready for even more success in the future.

“The sky’s the limit with Grace,” said Freeman. “She’s got all the talent and the drive, and the work ethic…Not only that, but she’s great to work with…It’s just about where she wants to go.”

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