A Lifetime of Theater


Jim Hazen

Amber Abela, eighth grade, as Mulan in the Lower Dauphin Middle School’s production of Mulan, 2020.

Morgan C.

Freshman Amber Abela has been in theater for most of her life, and she hopes she continues to be for a long time.

For Abela, theater is not simply a hobby, it is “something that I seriously want to do for the rest of my life and I can’t imagine what kind of person I’d be without it.”

Even before she began performing in shows, she had a lot of exposure to theater. “My mom… helped out with our church shows a lot, so even before my first show in second grade, I came to the practices and learned everything.”

She has played many roles over the years, including various major and minor characters, a mersister in The Little Mermaid in seventh grade, and her favorite role, Mulan, in eighth grade. She loves how free she was to make the character her own and plan every detail. “The middle school directors gave us a lot of creative freedom to make our characters what we wanted them to be, and I’m very proud of my interpretation of Mulan.”

Beginning theater in high school has been a huge step up for Abela. She explains that the greater time commitment, bigger audiences, and more complex shows make it more challenging—and more rewarding—than her past shows. This year, she is an understudy for Miss Scarlet in the spring play, Clue, and an understudy for the Bird Girls as well as a featured dancer in Seussical, the spring musical.

According to Abela, the hardest part of any production is the auditions. “It can be incredibly hard not to psych yourself out before you audition.” However, the final production is well-worth the stress. “The first step onstage during opening night is the absolute most magical moment ever!” Her favorite part of a show is the standing ovation from the audience when the entire cast bows, because of how different it is performing for a large crowd instead of just the directors.

Being in theater has had a huge impact on Abela and other aspects of her life as well. “It has given me confidence, friends, and memories that I know will last for a really long time.” She also feels it has given her a better ability to understand and empathize with others “because sometimes your character is a terrible person but you have to find a way to connect to them.”

She has big dreams for the future of her acting career. Her dream roles are Elphaba in Wicked or Cathy in The Last Five Years. She hopes to study musical theatre at Penn State, then someday be on Broadway. “It is a very hard goal to accomplish, but I believe that with a lot of hard work, positivity, and passion, I could do it.”