By Jae Wasson
Originally appeared in the Herald, 9/16
Patrick Henry College
Belle Schuler in England
It was the last day of Isabelle “Belle” Schuler’s intense four weeks of acting school at an internationally ranked London academy. She’d always been insecure about her acting, Schuler said. But after her last scene, Jenny Lippman, her experienced and idiosyncratic director, told her, “I think you really need to keep doing this.”
“It just gave me the courage to kind of say yes, this is what I’m going to pursue,” Schuler said.
Her summer drama school affirmed Schuler’s passion for working as a Christian in the acting community. She believes that as Christians it is our duty to tell honest and beautiful stories for the public.
“There is a way to be a Christian and an actress,” Schuler said.
Schuler began acting at age eleven after her mother took her and her nine year old brother to view the A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
“It was magical and beautiful and after seeing [the play] I knew I wanted to be involved,” she said.
So Schuler auditioned for the first thing she found, a part in the musical Spain. Though she was too young to apply, the directors let her in anyway.
She accepted her first paid acting job at 13 years old. The community theatre needed someone who could walk up the aisle on stilts and play a complicated little girl part in their production of Meet Me in St. Louis.
“It was really cool,” she said about the stilts, “I never fell; I was so proud.”
Schuler has been involved in a show almost literally up to the last two days before she left for school at Patrick Henry College.
For Schuler, college was a time not to act as much, but explore her academic side, get a really solid education, and then go out and do what she felt a “hundred percent called to do.”
She planned not to be involved in acting her first semester here, but ended up playing major roles in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“I wanted to make it really clear that just because I had been in shows before, I was just as willing to learn.” Schuler said.
Then, on July 19 of this summer, Schuler left for England to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts for a course in Shakespearean drama. The school is ranked fifth internationally among theater academies, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It only accepts around 30 students for each set of classes.
The day after she arrived, Schuler left her host home on one side of London for an hour long commute in “the Tube” to arrive at Baron’s Square. The square is a quaint, English place with little streets and corner shops near a small highway she walked down to find the two brick buildings which housed the school.
Inside the school, on landings of the three level staircase, hang pictures of famous alumni of the school including Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit, and Benedict Cumberbatch of the Sherlock series.
Training ran from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. The directors organized the students into groups to work on scenes every morning. In Schuler’s first scene, from Two Gentleman of Verona she played a love struck girl teasing another girl about boys. The twelve members of their group became very close, said Schuler.
Schuler remembers a specific class on stage combat. The students fought against each other with a sword and dagger. The instructor, a thick-set, athletic man with a heavy British accent could “handle a sword like no one’s business,” Schuler said.
Not only did Schuler attend the LAMDA course, she also spent days in Switzerland, Paris, and the English countryside and then attended a three day course on film acting in Bristol. “I saw more beautiful scenes and places than I ever had in my life,” Schuler said.
The worst moment of her summer came when the class in Bristol reviewed commercials the students had produced advertising boxed noodles. As she watched her performance, Schuler said, “all her acting insecurities came flooding back.”
That’s when she chose to look back at all the times she had affirmations of her desire to act. “You’re not going to have a hundred percent days all the time,” Schuler said, “You’re going to fail, but that doesn’t mean that all that came before doesn’t mean anything.”
Schuler will be graduating this December and heading home to Oregon for a few months of break. Then she plans to sign up with a talent agency in California. Eventually she hopes to afford going back to England for her Master’s in acting.
“I am a person with a plan,” Schuler said, “But while that sounds amazing, I know that the Lord has something that could … not correlate with my plan and is actually better.”