At age 14, Caroline Fossum of the Town of Grafton has film and stage credits to her name and several agents finding her jobs in Milwaukee, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Grafton High School freshman is currently rehearsing her role as an ant in First Stage Theater’s “Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly” based on the popular children’s books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.
“Since we’re all bugs, the set is huge to make us look little,” Caroline said. “It’s a great set.”
In one scene, she and the other ants try to carry a very large Q-tip.
The play opens Friday, April 13, and continues through Sunday, May 13, at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee.
Caroline has also been chosen for the First Stage Academy’s Young Company team to compete at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in October. Usually, only seniors and juniors go to the festival, but this year Caroline and another sophomore, one of her best friends, were chosen for the team.
To raise money for the trip, the academy is holding a Bard-O-Thon on Saturday, April 21, at the Milwaukee Youth Center, 325 W. Walnut St.
Students will perform as many memorized Shakespearean monologues in a row as they can. Donations are being sought for every monologue. The record is 12 monologues.
“I’ve memorized eight so far,” Caroline said. “I don’t know if I’ll make 12. That’s a lot.”
Especially since she’s also rehearsing for the theater production as well as keeping up her grades as a honor student.
A portion of the money raised will also go to the Kid2Kid Scholarship Fund for children from low-income families to attend the academy.
This is Caroline’s fourth First Stage production and her second year as a member of the Young Company, First Stage Academy’s pre-professional training school for high-school students.
All First Stage student roles are double cast to reduce the amount of school missed, since there are school performances during the day.
Caroline said she’s happiest when she is on stage and her goal is to be a professional actor. So far, she has been in musicals and Shakespearean productions.
“Performing in general is something that I love,” Caroline said. “I love being able to engage the audience.”
Members of the Young Company are among her best friends and understand her desire to perform, she said.
“Everyone there loves theater as much as I do. We talk about our dreams, our dream roles,” Caroline said.
Caroline said she knew what she wanted to do in first grade when she was in her first play, a church Christmas program.
“I was Blue Crayon No. 3. It was the most fun I ever had, and I remember crying when it was over,” she said.
An Irish dancer since she was 3, Caroline won awards in national and world competitions, but decided she wanted to do more than dance on stage.
She quit Irish dance when she was offered a part in First Stage Theater’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in 2009. She was in “My Son Pinocchio” in 2010 and “U: Bug: Me” last year.
“Caroline is an incredibly hard working and gifted young actor,” First Stage Associate Artistic Director and academy director John Maclay said.
“She is a kind and inclusive young person, which makes her a great person to have around off stage as well.”
First Stage makes sure all actors have their time in the spotlight and creates a family atmosphere that cuts down on jealousy, Caroline said.
“We’re all best friends at First Stage. There is no drama,” she said. “I love going there every day and seeing everyone. It makes me smile.”
Her first experience with First Stage was in seventh grade when she enrolled in the academy’s four-week summer program, which culminates in a student-run production. They put on “Carnival” that year.
She then auditioned for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
“I auditioned thinking I’m so young I won’t get in, but I got in and so did one of my friends,” Caroline said.
The next summer, the academy’s classic company class put on Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
“Now we’re reading ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in school and everybody else is so confused,” Caroline said. “I would have been confused also if I hadn’t spent that summer learning Shakespeare. We’ll read ‘Hamlet’ when we’re juniors, and that will really be hard for some people.”
While at John Long Middle School in Grafton, Caroline performed in all the school productions. She played Maria in “The Sound of Music” last year.
Caroline has been in several films, including “Winning No. 3” filmed in Oconomowoc, “The Billy Club” in Milwaukee and “Legend of the Oracle” and “Fabulous High,” both shot in Los Angeles.
All are in the editing stage, her mother Sana said.
Caroline filmed “Money Moments” shorts in Madison for Public Broadcasting Stations. The spots, which air between PBS programs, teach children to handle money.
She was in the Skylight Opera Company’s “The Music Man” in Milwaukee last year.
Caroline, the only daughter of Michael and Sana Fossum, has two adult brothers whose children idolize their teenage aunt.
Some of her friends’ parents discourage them from pursuing a career as an actor, she said.
“My parents understand I don’t want to do anything else,” Caroline said. “They’re very supportive.”
It’s rare when she’s not in a production.
“When I’m not in a show,” Caroline said, “I have nothing to do.”
Donations for the Bard-O-Thon can be made in Caroline’s name through www.crowdrise.com/carolinefossum. Another fundraiser will be held Thursday, April 19, at Zaffiro’s Pizza at the Marcus Northshore Cinema in Mequon. The restaurant will donate $2 for every large pizza sold that night.
More information on First Stage Theater and Academy is available at www.FirstStage.org.
Image Information: Caroline Fossum of Grafton is only 14, but she has a long list of stage credits and will compete as a Shakespearian actor
in a distinguished Utah festival on her way to a theater career.