Gabrielle Dupree, seventh grader at Crockett Middle School, has found her confidence and calling thanks to the school’s theater program. 

Dupree took to the stage as a sixth grader after visiting her sister’s theater class at an open house. The theater teacher, Ms. Lanell Pena-Hadley, handed out sock puppets to all of the kids, planting a seed in Dupree. 

Now with a year under her belt as an actress, she’s thoroughly enjoying the experience. 

“I like theater arts. It’s fun to perform. When you’re on stage, you just get to express yourself,” says Dupree. 

Last November, she played Mook in the play “The Elf on the Shelf Must Die” for the district’s Middle School One-Act Festival held at Singley Academy. 

Thankfully for Dupree, she likes playing characters with fun personalities, and Mook definitely fit the bill. In fact, she took home All-Star Cast honors for her performance. 

“You have to put yourself into it,” says Dupree. “If you’re on stage, you have to go into the character’s mind to say what they would say and how they would say it.”

Dupree also entered the school’s virtual talent show last year, debuting her act, “Ice Cream.” She wrote the script, filmed herself and utilized an editing app from her phone to create the video. The judges were impressed, naming her play “Most Creative.”

This once shy and quiet girl has now found the confidence to put herself out there. She’s not afraid to raise her hand in class to answer or ask a question, and when she’s in a Zoom, she makes sure to use the video feature. 

She’s embracing who she is in large part to Pena-Hadley, who is still Crockett’s theater teacher. Pena-Hadley has created a safe space in her classroom for students like Dupree to be themselves, something that’s not easy to do in middle school. 

“Gabrielle is a joy to have in class,” says Pena-Hadley. “She was so quiet and reserved but once on stage, she comes alive! She’s able to get into the character’s head and behave, move and talk in a new way different from herself. Her instincts for acting are amazing at such a young age. I usually just let her go and just watch her do her thing.” 

Dupree is excited about the future. She plans to perform in high school at either MacArthur High School or Singley Academy. As for her dreams after graduation, Dupree aspires to become a model and actress.