Actress Discovers Character Both On And Off Stage

By: Sommer Danielsen

Senior Ariella Vernon walks the halls donning a graphic tee advertising the phrase, “Gypsy heart” and her destroyed blue jeans meet her low-top, 1461 Doc Marten’s at her ankles. Her white backpack is covered in a careful array of illustrations and quotes. One reads, “R.I.P. Purple Marker, you may have lost your cap, but you will never lose a place in my heart.”

Talking to Vernon, it’s hard not to be captivated by her warm, eccentric energy. It should be noted, a perpetual risk is posed for any phrase in a conversation. It might be taken up by her and used as fuel for raging sarcasm.

Just as intriguing as her aura is her commitment to theater. Walking into theater camp at age six, Vernon had no idea she was also walking into a life-long love affair. The now 18-year-old brunette-turned-blonde initially met the possibility with a strong feeling of apprehension. “My dad was the one who got me started. I don’t know if I would’ve if he hadn’t pushed me to do it,” Vernon said.

Like many new endeavors, theater was intimidating and needed to be met with a good measure of confidence. “I think the first time is just really scary because you don’t know anyone, and the feeling I used to get before going on stage was so overwhelming. I used to hate it so much,” Vernon said.

Even today, those puerile nerves still course through her body as she waits in the wings. “It’s crazy. I mean it is very surreal — the moments before a show, when everyone’s kind of racing around doing last minute preparations, and you kind of look around and see everyone who you’ve gotten to know. It’s very bittersweet, and then you start getting nervous, and the adrenaline kind of just rushes through you, and you warm up,” Vernon said.  “The feeling doesn’t really go away, I guess, but you learn to use your nervousness.”

However, the surge of confidence from walking onto a brightly lit stage is met with an even stronger dose of humility in all the hours of rehearsal. “You really learn about your flaws and how to better them,” Vernon said. “I have a tendency to laugh on stage and break character, and sometimes I go down at the end of my sentences.”

Constant critiquing is required for improvement, which is something not everyone can handle with poise. However, in her persistence, Vernon has become one of the few who can.

A particular highlight for her even features an unfortunate blunder. “My favorite performance was state speech two years ago. It was all girls, and we were doing a piece called, Cave Dream. At one point I started laughing, and I had to turn around and pretend to be doing something over in the corner because I was laughing so much. It was terrible, but it was so funny,” Vernon said, “but I’ve also learned a lot about being yourself. Gosh, that sounds so cheesy, but I really have learned how to present yourself and how to use actions to further an intention. I’ve also learned that it’s OK to be dramatic and over the top because you need to know how to do that if you want to be involved in theater, and you really learn to push yourself,” Vernon said.

The Cave Dream considered, it’s fair to say “favorites” and “bests” are two completely separate categories. “My most successful performance was this year. I was in a short one act called “Variations on a Theme,” and our piece was fourth. We went out, and it went really great because, A — we never messed up, and B — the audience laughed super hard. It was the first time the audience really laughed during the whole one-act,” Vernon said.

Since her initial involvement in theater, Vernon’s interests have grown to encompass more of the stage than just acting alone. “It used to be that I really wanted to act in films, and I still would absolutely love to do that, but it’s kind of evolved more into making films, and I know that knowing how to act with be extremely helpful,” Vernon said.

At Cedar Falls High School, Vernon is a part of the advanced acting class and participates in school productions and speech team. Looking forward to the rest of her senior year, it’s hard not to use rose-colored lenses. “I think the more you grow as a person, the more different things seem, so theater has been different [this year], and I think it’s just because I’m growing up,” Vernon said. “It’s kind of like my last round of high school plays and the speech team. The next step would be college productions, which are kind of a big deal.”

Despite this overwhelming thought, Vernon is still focused on enjoying her remaining time here. “Going on stage is so amazing, when you are up there, and at first you know there is an audience, but eventually they just kind of melt away, and you kind of really get into the character, and it’s almost like you become them for a moment. It is really cool,” Vernon said, “and you meet really great people along the way, so I think that really helps you stay motivated and involved.”

Vernon still has 84 days to walk the halls and grace the stage. As she turns to the side with her white backpack and well-loved Docs, an arrow becomes visible next to her love note to the purple marker with its lost cap. It reads, “found it.”

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