11/20/2013 06:37 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

There's No Room for Being Scared on the Stage -- Or in Life

What's my spark? Theatricality.

Yes, it's a funny word, and back in 8th grade I got kind of obsessed with it; I even made up a silly song about it that I'd sing in the halls, complete with jazz hands -- "Theatricality-y-y!!" Thinking about it now, it was a bit weird, but it was just one of the ways I started realizing theater was in my heart. I began to realize that acting was my spark -- that motivated me to give my best, even when I think I've had enough.

With that said, it's pretty much what my life has consisted of since I popped out of the womb.

All my life I've wanted to perform. Whether in ballets, theater, or sports, I've loved pushing myself to get better at whatever I'm trying to do. And performing really pushes me, because performing forces you to be something completely out of yourself... with the pressure of an audience staring at you!

My parents put me in ballet when I was young, and I danced until just a couple years ago, when I realized it wasn't inspiring me like it used to. I was around 12 or 13, doing five or six days a week of dance, for hours every day, and it was really exhausting. So I transitioned to theater, and there was so much about it that dance didn't give me. Dance is movement, only movement. With acting I can apply voice and emotions; there's an unlimited amount of things you can express with those tools. And most of all, when I'm playing a character, I can experience things that I never could have experienced on my own. As soon as I got into drama club in middle school, I knew I had found something that made me feel in my element, my spark, my true expression.

While I was performing in middle school plays (highlight: I was the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz), I heard about a high school that offered what I longed to get, an education that focused on creativity: the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, or NOCCA. And it was here -- where I go now -- that I truly found what theatricality meant for me.

In high school, I began to understand what it is about theater that makes me love it so much. It's a mix of two needs, really: my need for expression, and my need to inspire. I think any play, happy, sad, funny, serious, should have the capacity to inspire. It wouldn't be worth writing if there weren't something for the audience to learn. Plays aren't only supposed to make the audience think, but make them realize something they never would've grasped if they hadn't engaged with the performance. When I can make an audience come to an important awareness, that's when I know I've done my job.

And I love to find a piece that inspires me too. I do that with monologues. I try to find a piece that inspires me when I'm saying it. I'm working on a piece with a woman trying to seduce this ladies' man, in a way -- she's trying to convince him that life is worth living on the night they have together. She says, "You don't realize how hard life is for me, and yet life is what I long for. We're surrounded by life, and we must live too!" It's just amazing to get to say those lines, and to feel what my character feels when she says them.

It's funny, I love to talk about life, but sometimes it's hard for me to put my own words together -- it's easier to use someone else's words. You can think in new directions when you play a character. There's no boundaries as far as my emotion goes -- what are boundaries?

This fall, I played Elmire in the play Tartuffe: Born Again, based of Molière's writing. She's a devoted wife who gets pushed to make a bold decision, to take a big risk. And I started comparing myself to the character. I was asking myself: Would I have made this decision too? If not, why wouldn't I?

From playing this role, I've decided something important: I'll try my best to become less passive. I'm always so scared of messing up, but from that role I've realized that, not only in my own life, but in the characters I want to play, I should do everything with the most confidence possible. If I make a mistake, fail big. There's no room for being scared on the stage, and there shouldn't be any in my life either.