The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Humans of Harker: Stepping into the spotlight

Isabella Ribeiro fosters collaboration and positivity through theater
“I love using performing arts as a method to positively impact the audience. With every single show I do, I always want to have my performance be moving, leaving the audience with something new to ponder, something for them to take away,” Isabella Ribeiro (12) said. (Shareen Chahal)

“Top of the show, everyone!” Isabella Ribeiro (12) scans the expansive stage in the Rothschild Performing Arts Center as her cast finds their places in the wings. Through her headset, she addresses the tech crew, reciting instructions from the master spreadsheet on the table in front of her. She confirms lighting and sound cues, checks that the actors are in their places and then, the whole room fades to black. A few seconds pass before bright, colorful spotlights illuminate the theater, shining upon the wooden furniture set perfectly on the stage. As the lead actors enter the scene, she experiences the essence of each aspect of her show intertwined, working in tandem to fulfill her vision of the play.

Isabella grew up in an environment surrounded by dance and music. In lower school, she picked up ballet and jazz classes and attended drama camps. She discovered a love for acting on stage by the time she entered sixth grade and began to pursue her passion for theater, both inside and outside of school.

“From a young age, my mom signed me up for ballet classes, and I also joined dance in TK,” Isabella said. “On top of that, in second grade, my mom signed me up for a theater camp over the summer. Ever since then, I was hooked.”

When first starting off, Isabella found herself feeling timid on stage, lacking confidence in her performance. However, as she immersed herself further in the realm of theater, she felt at ease with taking the stage in front of other people.

“Theater has given me that comfort of speaking and presenting myself in front of others,” Isabella said. “Over time, I grew more comfortable with making big choices, and performing has taught me to be okay with taking those risks.”

Throughout her journey of developing confidence within, Isabella made lasting connections with fellow castmates, performers, and mentors along the way. This past summer in particular, Isabella traveled to Scotland with the cast, crew and directors of last year’s spring musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, for the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which features creative acts from all over the world. While there, Isabella opened up and bonded with the tight-knit cast, making an effort to interact with more unfamiliar faces.

“Fringe was such an amazing experience,” Isabella said. “I was able to get close to so many people in the cast, even members of the cast I didn’t really talk to a lot beforehand. I feel like I just got to know myself a lot better on that trip and was a lot more social and outgoing than I normally am.”

For Isabella, Fringe served as more than just an opportunity to discover a new country and talk to new people. Over the course of the trip, she led warm-ups and mentored younger students. She consistently faced the cast with a bright energy that invoked encouragement, spirit and community amongst the members. 

Close friend and fellow Student Directed Showcase director, Selina Xu (12), witnessed Isabella’s amicable and motivational leadership at Fringe. Selina understood how Isabella’s positive attitude helped cultivate a sense of unity between castmates, contributing to the collective growth of the group.

“Isabella puts so much energy and commitment into the theater environment that it makes other people want to do the same,” Selina said. “She has a really great way of making everyone around her feel loved. For instance, during musical warmups, she makes sure that everyone is calm and getting in the zone. She brings a positive, bubbly energy that spreads through the whole room.”

As she transitioned into senior year, Isabella stepped into more leadership roles, such as managing her own theatrical performance as one of the directors of SDS. Isabella harnessed her compassion for others to build her own cast and foster a welcoming learning environment for the actors she directed. Along the way, the SDS experience bolstered her admiration for the art of theater and the impact it can have on an audience.

“I was so excited to be able to bond super closely with my SDS cast and to get to know my show backwards and forwards, all the intricacies of my show,” Isabella said. “I loved just being able to translate the image or vision that I had for myself and for my show on stage and being able to share that joy with other people.”

From the beginning of her performing arts career until now, Isabella garnered a respect for herself and her skill that she struggled to recognize before, channeling her love for theater as she started fulfilling roles as a leader and mentor figure. Sonya Apsey (12), close friend of five years, feels pride in Isabella’s personal growth over the years.

“When I first met Isabella, there were some moments when she was a little bit shy,” Sonya said. “But, seeing her now as an SDS director, Downbeat Dance Captain, Link Crew member, all these amazing leadership activities, and seeing her excel so effortlessly really demonstrates her growth as an independent and strong individual who has a lot of love and care in her heart.”

Laura Lang-Ree, the Director of Performing Arts, also got to know Isabella at a young age. She first noticed Isabella’s talent when she took the stage in dance groups in lower school and mentored her more personally through Harker’s Summer @ The Conservatory theater camps. After directing Isabella in upper school shows, Lang-Ree commends Isabella’s upbeat outlook on performing and encourages her to carry her optimism into college and beyond.

“It was clear from a very young age what a hard worker Isabella is; she loves her craft so much and just wants to try harder and harder,” Lang-Ree said. “I hope she keeps that joy for life, that positive energy when she walks in the room, that respect and kindness for everyone around her. Let that always be forward facing for her as a human, and the rest will follow.”

Isabella’s journey in the arts so far resulted in self-confidence, improved social skills and long-lasting friendships, among many other forms of personal growth. Most importantly, though, she always reminds herself of the influence performing can have on the communities it is presented to, and she hopes to continue making a difference through her love for theater and her fellow castmates.

“I love using performing arts as a method to positively impact the audience,” Isabella said. “With every single show I do, I always want to have my performance be moving, leaving the audience with something new to ponder, something for them to take away.”


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About the Contributor
Shareen Chahal, Winged Post Co-Managing Editor
Shareen Chahal (12) is a co-managing editor for the Winged Post, and this is her third year on staff. This year, Shareen hopes to extend her coverage to more underrepresented groups on campus and to make more friends within this year's journalism staff. In her free time, she likes to sing, paint and bake for her friends and family.

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