Bella was certain she would “simply die of fear” if she ever had to act in front of an audience. But playwright Emily Sahakian knew just how to help her be comfortable and confident while challenging her to conquer her fear. In Strawberries for Two, Taylor Swift (played by professional actress Elise Langer) needs help conquering a bad case of stage fright. Enter Bella as the Strawberry Ninja: stealthy, expert in martial arts, and mostly silent—communicating through signs that Bella revealed to the audience. Still, when it came time for her to speak a few words out loud, no one knew whether Bella would be able to succeed. Elise was prepared for anything—including Bella running off stage in a panic. “Sometimes, if you do something that you don’t want to do, you might like it,” Bella says now. Her Mom adds, “The whole play, about being fearless, was so appropriate for her. I am so proud. What Pillsbury House did with her was amazing.” And a star was born that day; Bella spoke all her lines flawlessly.

$1000 covers the cost of nurturing kids like Bella through a full season of the Chicago Avenue Project. Your donation makes this story possible.

photo of Bella by Aaron Fenster in Table for Two, 2011

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