By Kyah Corff
The financially turbulent life of an actor requires strength and perseverance, but for actors the calling is an important and noble one that holds up a mirror to society and facilitates change.
Isabella “Bella” Lind is a graduating senior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School this year, and she has dedicated her life and future career path to theater acting despite its challenges.
“I want to tell stories. With music and film, the story can get lost. With stage, the story changes every night. The audience is another character, and that changes it,” Bella said.
She is following in the footsteps of her parents, who met and fell in love as actors in Los Angeles. Her father, Andrew Philpot, has been a local star at PCPA (Pacific Conservatory Theater) since 2004.
Instead of going to a traditional university, Lind will be attending PCPA’s strenuous two-year mentorship program. There, she will learn from renowned actors and directors. After the program, she hopes to earn her bachelor of arts degree in theater at a university and then work as an actress.
Yet Bella did not always appreciate theater. As a child of actors, she saw the instability and hardships of the career.
“I didn’t think an actor’s life was dignified. I lived in an apartment and everyone else lived in a house,” she explained.
At 8 years old, however, her perception was transformed when she saw her father in PCPA’s production of “Ragtime” by Terrence McNally. It was in that moment that she knew she also wanted to perform on stage.
“I understood why you would be an actor,” she said, recalling her bittersweet mixture of pride for her father and shame she hadn’t appreciated his career before. She realized the importance of storytelling in society and theater’s ability to make an audience feel, think, and catalyze change.
Just a year later, Bella and her father shared the stage and performed “Gliding” from “Ragtime,” the very show that sparked her love for theater. From there, she involved herself in Solvang School’s theater program and in Arts Outreach’s summer production. In high school, she also took theater classes and participated in every Theater Group show.
She cites several mentors who guided and taught her as she excelled in theatrical work. The first is her father.
“My dad taught me to take risks and never be ashamed of what I put on stage,” she said with a loving smile.
Her theater director at Solvang School and Arts Outreach, Sara Martinovich, gave her the opportunity to break out of her comfort zone as Lind started out as a comedic actress.
Martinovich “was the one who said I should try drama. … She let me break out of comedy,” Bella said.
Finally, Jeff McKinnon, the theater director at the high school, gave her a new perspective on theater due to his belief that storytelling catalyzes social change.
“He taught me that it’s not about the actors’ emotions but about how to make the audience think,” she explained.
For her final high school production, Bella starred as Mother Courage in the spring production of “Mother Courage and Her Children” by Bertolt Brecht. The play follows a merchant named Anna Fierling (nicknamed Mother Courage) who tries to make a living and keep her children alive during a brutal religious war.
The production is not often found at universities, let alone high schools, due to its complexity and abstract meanings and its practice of the style known as Epic Theater.
It was an extraordinary undertaking for her final high school role, and she was honored that McKinnon even considered doing the play.
Bella was both drawn and repelled by the character of Mother Courage because it scared her the most. Mother Courage holds a deep love for her children yet continuously isolates herself from them.
“I like to play characters I am not comfortable playing … in the end, you learn the most,” she chuckled. “Mother Courage is a business woman because she’s a mother, yet she’s a terrible mother!”
“A part of me wants to be like her in her confidence, but not like her brusque exterior,” said Lind.
Her performance of Mother Courage helped make the production a critical hit, but she did not measure the success of the show by the reviews but by its impact on the audience. Many audience members were deeply troubled by the show’s despicable protagonist and could be heard having thoughtful conversations on the show’s true meaning after every night’s performance.
Bella says she lives her life by her favorite quote by John Lithgow: “The most exciting acting tends to happen in roles you never thought you could play.”
Kyah Korff is a junior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.