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RISE

Sirena Abalian’s ascent to the stage began with ‘Pippi’

Jennifer Mitchell

Age: 16

Hometown: Abalian grew up in Waltham and now lives in Lexington.

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Think of: Rachel Berry of “Glee” — all of the talent, minus the melodrama. Abalian, a high school junior, stays poised and professional in her demanding off-stage role as student/family member/friend. She saves the theatrics for the stage.

What caught our eye: Performing in professional productions since age 6, Abalian has been critically lauded for her roles in local productions including the Wheelock Family Theatre’s “Pippi Longstocking,” Stoneham Theatre’s “The Nutcracker,” and Arlington Friends of the Drama’s “Grey Gardens.” In 2009, the Independent Reviewers of New England presented her with the Most Promising Performance by a Child Actor Award for her role as JoJo in the Wheelock production of “Seussical.”

Lightbulb moment: “Ever since I was little I was always singing, dancing, and entertaining people around me. My mom brought me to see shows here and there, and I remember pointing to the stage and saying, ‘I want to be up there.’ When I was 5, I saw a production of “Pippi Longstocking” at the Wheelock [Family] Theatre. After that I took a class and began auditioning for shows. It’s kind of ironic that I was on the same stage 10 years later in the same show playing Pippi.”

Biggest thrill: “When I’m acting, the most exciting thing is that it’s live. I’m always thinking about what’s coming next and watching for something to go wrong. When you’re acting, you’re always trying to make things look better.”

Biggest surprise: “I played a boy before and it was difficult, but the most enriching show for me. [In] some shows I can dig deeper, putting myself in places I obviously haven’t been in. It can be emotionally and mentally draining.”

Inspired by: “I get that warm, fuzzy feeling seeing people in the audience enjoying a performance. It’s exciting because I know I’m doing what makes me so happy and I have so much more to do and explore in the future.”

Aspires to: Abalian hopes to grow as an actress by setting achievable show-to-show goals. “I just want to keep doing what I love no matter where I am as long as I’m happy and comfortable. I don’t ever want to stop, so it’s hard for me to make an ending to the story.”

For good luck: Not the superstitious type, Abalian explains that each show creates its own quirky rituals that spring from nervous pre-performance energy and the unique dynamic of the cast. “Sometimes it will be doing a dance with a friend or doing certain stretches. In one show I had to brush my teeth before a scene. In another, I had to put cream on my elbows and knees to fill the moment right before going on stage.”

What people should know: “I want to become an American Sign Language interpreter. It seems random, but I fell in love with the language. You are using your face, hands, and body to emote words and stories. It fits perfectly in my lifestyle. There’s interpretation for the stage, and at some shows you’ll see an interpreter on the side. It’s beautiful what they can create that the voice can’t.”

Coming soon: Abalian will be playing the role of Sara Crewe in Fiddlehead Theatre Company’s production of “A Little Princess” at Dorchester’s Strand Theatre from Nov. 21 to Dec. 8.

Links: www.fiddleheadtheatre.com

Steph Hiltz can be reached at stephanie.hiltz@globe.com.
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