By Allison Hamburger
On a Monday afternoon, bookstore associate Allie Costa traveled from work to work, carrying a small, black Tinker Bell bag containing more than just the usual handbag items.
“I have a script, my dinner, a prop,” Costa said. “Iâm going to have a gigantic thing of water, which is currently in the fridge, my makeup, my shorts. This is the life of an actress. This is what you have.”
Leaving the school bookstore, she headed straight for Son of Semele theater in Los Angeles, where she would perform later in the evening.
Costa played Matchgirl in “What the Moon Saw, or âI Only Appear to Be Dead,â” running from Sept. 9 to Oct. 9. The play, written by Stephanie Fleischmann and directed by Matthew McCray, adapted five Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales to take place in the United States just following 9/11. Each of the 11 cast members played many roles in the show, so Costa also acted as a ghoul and the Little Mermaidâs sister and helped with many scene changes.
“I maybe sit down for 30 seconds in two hours of the show,” she said.
Costaâs main role of the Matchgirl was inspired by Andersenâs story “The Little Match Girl,” in which a poor girl sees visions in the matches she sells. In this stage version, Costa sells matches and meets others at Ground Zero, making the story more emotional.
“I often feel that I can be very loud or enthusiastic, and itâs all genuine, all of my energy is genuine, so for her I just had to make her sadder, make her grounded in a different way, and itâs one of the most intense and challenging things that Iâve had to do,” Costa said.
The role marked another first for Costa â lighting a match. The Matchgirl lights matches during her portion of the show, and during rehearsals, Costa realized that she had never lit a match.
“I donât have a phobia, but I just tried to think, have I ever lit a candle?” she said. “I donât think I have.”
The work, performed in a 36-seat theater, contained details uncommon for plays. For example, the moon, played by a woman seated on a raised platform, played a sparkly accordion throughout the performance.
“You donât see that a lot,” she said.
Costa has acted for other theater productions as well as televison and film. She appeared in the short film “Goldfish Love” and on “90210” in February, among other projects. She plays a 14-year-old girl in the upcoming web series “Unintentionally Awesome.”
Anders Villalta â12 attended “What the Moon Saw” in September. He had often run lines with Costa to help her prepare for auditions and rehearsal while working at the bookstore over the summer, so he anticipated seeing the final result, he said.
“Allieâs complete immersion in her character was something not many of us at Harvard-Westlake get to see,” Villalta said. “I was honored and entertained to be there when it all unfolded onstage.”
The show did not interfere with Costaâs work at school, she said, since rehearsals were at night and on weekends.
“Sheâs so passionate about [acting],” upper school bookstore manager Irma Hernandez said. “I hope it takes her far.”