Drama Queen: Lena Valenti fueled toward future in theater by social connection


Matthew McGehee

LEADING LADY. Junior Lena Valenti has a leading role in the upcoming spring musical, while also taking on several additional roles. Her passion for different aspects of theater stems from her drive to connect.

Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu, Assistant Editor

When she was 10 years old, Lena Valenti participated in her first-ever professional show, a production of the musical “Oliver” at the St. Bonaventure Oratory. During one of the first rehearsals with the whole ensemble, Lena felt overjoyed by the energy in the room — artistic passion, creativity and pure love for theater permeated the air. 

This was the moment when she knew she wanted to do theater for the rest of her life, an activity fueled by her passion for connecting with people.

Lena started taking singing lessons at 4 and acting classes at 6. Her early classes at the Emerald City Theater formed her first memories in theater. In the following years, Lena’s passion for performing only grew. At 11 she started performing at a professional theater, Theatre Above The Law.

She said the actors she’s worked with at this theater have taught her a lot about what it means to follow one’s passions.

“I’ve worked with adults who work literally four jobs a week just to be there to be able to perform,” she said. “That’s taught me a lot about making priorities and really working for the purposes of doing what you love.”

Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu

As Lena got older, she continued to explore her interests within theater and expand connections among her ensemble. She became a leader in U-High’s theater, where she took on numerous positions around production, becoming an assistant music director, head choreographer and director.

Fellow head choreographer Anna Bohlen, a senior, has worked with Lena since last year. She said that Lena’s ambition and kind personality toward others are what makes her an effective leader.

“She’s very, very driven,” Anna said. “When you need someone to get things done, Lena’s the person you ask. She is very motivated and she works so hard at everything she does. She’s also a really, really sweet person, and she makes everyone feel welcome in the theater.”

Theater director Liucija Ambrosini said Lena shares the passion and intellect of students she sees pursuing theater in the future.

“It’s really interesting to see somebody already in high school come in and know that that’s what they really want to go after,” she said.

For Lena, now a junior, theater is not only a space for practicing leadership but one that provides comfort. This comfort stems from both how she feels acting onstage and how she knows acting will be an irreplaceable part of her future, surrounded by other passionate people. She said theater has saved her many times.

“This is what I’m going to do with my life. I love that I’m able to do what I love for a living,” she said. “It makes me feel very at home — I have something to work for and be passionate about.”

Anna said she believes Lena’s skill and pure love for theater will help her go far. 

“Lena works so hard at what she loves and her passion for theater just drives her forward,” she said. “I know she’s gonna do great things in theater in her life.” 

When Lena performs, she wants to make the audience feel something. She said that it is a privilege to be able to influence and impact an audience. 

“There’s nothing that I love more than performing and being on stage,” she said. “If I’ve made the audience feel something, then I’ve succeeded. That’s what being a successful actress is to me — being able to just give to a receptive audience. It’s such an unbeatable feeling.”

In one of her favorite shows, a compilation of poet Edgar Allen Poe’s works, Lena was the lead as well as the youngest actor in the production at 12. She helped guide the show, offering short anecdotes to the audience. Upon the finale, she stood on a platform with the other actors kneeling beneath her, and was instilled with excitement and power looking around the audience. 

This was an image — and a feeling — she would never forget.