Ela Baldina is a junior at Leesville. In her Covid-filled three years here, her passion for the arts has been pushed to the limit, leading her to question not only her place as an actor, but her place as a student. Ultimately, though, she’s come out the other side stronger and more successful than ever. Baldina is one of Leesville’s talented creative minds, and her love for theatre is a part of her identity now.
Baldina– whose real name is Adele Baldina, but she goes by Ela– has an extensive theatre background. She began at NC Theatre when she was only 5; she started singing and dancing from an even younger age, later using those skills in her first show, Les Misérables.
She came to Leesville from a small charter school. “In total, including staff and students, maybe over 100 people total [attended the school],” said Baldina, so coming to Leesville was a big shift for her. “We didn’t have clubs, we didn’t have a theatre program,” mentioned Baldina, but despite the change, she ran with it, making it into the underclassmen show for Radium Girls, the first Leesville show of her freshman year. “My first year was a big change, but it was a positive one,” said Baldina.
Covid brought about realizations for everyone, and Baldina was no different. With a laugh, she mentioned that she “learned my weakness is that I cannot work well alone.” Baldina adapted, though, to overcome her procrastination, learning to ask for help in a difficult learning year for everybody. “As an artist, it allows me to connect to characters more, especially those that have been in isolation,” she said, discussing the ways Covid changed her as an actor. She leans heavily into the authenticity of characters; Covid helped that, despite everything.
Leesville’s theatre program has not only increased Baldina’s love for theatre, but kept it alive. “There have been times where I’m like… do I want to quit? Yes! And my friends have been like, ‘Ela, no’,” she said. With dedication, passion, and a strong community around her, Baldina kept at it, landing roles in Virtual Family Dinner and Leesville’s first post-Covid show, And Then There Were None.
And Then There Were None was a big one for her. Earning the leading role, Vera Claythorne, as a junior, is a feat in and of itself, and Baldina nailed it. “It’s been a lot of fun,” she says, “and Mr. Hurley’s a great teacher, and the shows have been so so fun to do.”
In a theatre-filled life, the first show Baldina saw was a production of Annie. Immediately, it became a dream role, but despite playing ensemble roles in other versions, she had mostly put that dream aside come high school, thinking she was too old to play it. But when Hurley, Leesville’s theatre director, announced Annie as the spring musical, that dream came roaring back, and her audition put Baldina in the spotlight as the optimistic orphan herself. “It’s been great; there’s been a lot of connection to childhood theatre,” she remarked.
The musical process– learning songs, practicing choreo, memorizing lines– is as alive as ever for Leesville’s Annie. Taking the brunt of that, starring in most scenes in the show, is Baldina, who is used to the process but not immune to the stress of it. “It’s a little overwhelming, I have to say, because there’s a lot of aspects that go into it,” she says, with a mix of satisfaction and weariness in her voice. She’s used to the weariness, though— it comes with the territory— and is ultimately grateful for the opportunity.
Always tracing it back to the authenticity of the character, Baldina reflects back on her childhood roles to make her performance as genuine as possible. “I’m 16! Annie’s 11,” she jokes, emphasizing that “if it’s not regulated with those characteristics… then it’s not gonna be as authentic.” Of course, inspiration can come from many places: “Watching my sister, who is 10, has actually helped quite a lot,” she laughs.
Looking forward to senior year, Baldina is eager to do “a couple more shows with my friends, definitely,” but she adds that she’ll miss this year’s seniors a great amount. Every generation makes friends with those above them, but this year’s juniors especially latched on to the seniors; coming back from Covid, seniors that truly knew what was going on were both valuable assets and good friends. Baldina met most of them her freshman year, and after returning and rising through the arts program, became good friends with many.
Naturally, she wants to pursue theatre in college; talking about the application and audition process, there’s a certain excitement in her voice, excitement similar to that of her past Leesville auditions. “It’s a difficult process, as well, with the auditions, and trying to get in with academics,” she says. “I’m gonna be excited for that to be over, because I’ve already begun, and it’s been a lot,” she adds with a laugh.
Over the years, Baldina has built up a strong theatre community standing with her. “Having those people around me to support me as I go on and do things in the future… it’s definitely gonna help a lot,” she says. With an impressive background behind her, coming off a dream role in a fantastic show, and looking ahead at a solid future in senior year and beyond, Baldina is ready for whatever her passion for the arts brings.
Hi! My name is Brendan Shore and I am a staff writer for The Mycenaean. I am an avid photographer and rock climber!