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‚Äôs ‚ÄúDiary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly‚ÄĚ based on the popular children‚Äôs books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.
‚ÄúSince we‚Äôre all bugs, the set is huge to make us look little,‚ÄĚ Caroline said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a great set.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve memorized eight so far,‚ÄĚ Caroline said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know if I‚Äôll make 12. That‚Äôs a lot.‚ÄĚ
Especially since she‚Äôs 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‚Äôs fourth First Stage production and her second year as a member of the Young Company, First Stage Academy‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúPerforming in general is something that I love,‚ÄĚ Caroline said. ‚ÄúI love being able to engage the audience.‚ÄĚ
Members of the Young Company are among her best friends and understand her desire to perform, she said.
‚ÄúEveryone there loves theater as much as I do. We talk about our dreams, our dream roles,‚ÄĚ 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.
‚ÄúI was Blue Crayon No. 3. It was the most fun I ever had, and I remember crying when it was over,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever‚ÄĚ in 2009. She was in ‚ÄúMy Son Pinocchio‚ÄĚ in 2010 and ‚ÄúU: Bug: Me‚ÄĚ last year.
‚ÄúCaroline is an incredibly hard working and gifted young actor,‚ÄĚ First Stage Associate Artistic Director and academy director John Maclay said.
‚ÄúShe is a kind and inclusive young person, which makes her a great person to have around off stage as well.‚ÄĚ
First Stage makes sure all actors have their time in the spotlight and creates a family atmosphere that cuts down on jealousy, Caroline said.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre all best friends at First Stage. There is no drama,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúI love going there every day and seeing everyone. It makes me smile.‚ÄĚ
Her first experience with First Stage was in seventh grade when she enrolled in the academy‚Äôs four-week summer program, which culminates in a student-run production. They put on ‚ÄúCarnival‚ÄĚ that year.
She then auditioned for ‚ÄúThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI auditioned thinking I‚Äôm so young I won‚Äôt get in, but I got in and so did one of my friends,‚ÄĚ Caroline said.
The next summer, the academy‚Äôs classic company class put on Shakespeare‚Äôs ‚ÄúAs You Like It.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNow we‚Äôre reading ‚ÄėRomeo & Juliet‚Äô in school and everybody else is so confused,‚ÄĚ Caroline said. ‚ÄúI would have been confused also if I hadn‚Äôt spent that summer learning Shakespeare. We‚Äôll read ‚ÄėHamlet‚Äô when we‚Äôre juniors, and that will really be hard for some people.‚ÄĚ
While at John Long Middle School in Grafton, Caroline performed in all the school productions. She played Maria in ‚ÄúThe Sound of Music‚ÄĚ last year.
Caroline has been in several films, including ‚ÄúWinning No. 3‚ÄĚ filmed in Oconomowoc, ‚ÄúThe Billy Club‚ÄĚ in Milwaukee and ‚ÄúLegend of the Oracle‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúFabulous High,‚ÄĚ both shot in Los Angeles.
All are in the editing stage, her mother Sana said.
Caroline filmed ‚ÄúMoney Moments‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Music Man‚ÄĚ 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‚Äô parents discourage them from pursuing a career as an actor, she said.
‚ÄúMy parents understand I don‚Äôt want to do anything else,‚ÄĚ Caroline said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre very supportive.‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs rare when she‚Äôs not in a production.
‚ÄúWhen I‚Äôm not in a show,‚ÄĚ Caroline said, ‚ÄúI have nothing to do.‚ÄĚ
Donations for the Bard-O-Thon can be made in Caroline‚Äôs name through www.crowdrise.com/carolinefossum. Another fundraiser will be held Thursday, April 19, at Zaffiro‚Äôs 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.