Mia Bompensa is an eighth-grader at Haddonfield Middle School and as a seasoned thespian, she’s strutting her stuff as a member of the children’s ensemble in “Shrek The Musical.”
“Shrek,” directed by Glenn Casale and choreographed by Robbie Roby, officially opens Nov. 13 and continues through Jan. 5 on the Walnut Street Theatre’s Mainstage. This production marks Mia’s second appearance at the Philadelphia theater, having previously performed in 2017 as one of the orphans in “Annie.”
The award-winning Broadway musical, based on the movie franchise, follows a reclusive ogre who embarks on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking donkey and a feisty princess.
Bompensa, by comparison, is anything but reclusive.
“When I was 10 I started getting interested in acting, because when I was little I used to go to shows and it made me feel like ‘oh my gosh, I wanna do this,’” she said.
Her first stage experience came at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman at age 10, where she starred as the titular character in “Annie.” She admitted she felt inspired to know what it felt like to be on stage in front of an audience, so it was a natural choice to pursue acting further.
Despite having appeared once more in “Annie” two years back in a professional production at Walnut, Bompensa admitted it wasn’t a given that she’d want to audition for a role there in “Shrek.”
“I knew they were having auditions, but I didn’t really think to audition because I really didn’t think it was a kids’ show. So my dance teacher, she said how some of her students were auditioning, and told me I should audition for it, since I had done something there before,” she related.
“So I sent in my resume and my headshot and they called me back in September for the audition.”
Once slotted in for the production, Bompensa said rehearsals were an arduous process, the first two weeks routinely lasting from just after school to late in the night. On some days, she wouldn’t return home until midnight. It was a hard lesson in professional preparation and a far cry from her origins in children’s theater.
“At Pitman it was just kinda like camp, everybody gets a role. But at Walnut, it’s more elite and not everybody gets a role. You could get cut, you could get fired. It is a job at the end of the day,” she admitted.
“I felt more comfortable (with her current role in ‘Shrek’) than I guess I would have before with ‘Annie,’ just because I was just entering the professional environment. Since I have more experience, this was less nerve-wracking for me.”
Away from performing, Bompensa leads an active life: she plays soccer and lacrosse, holds a second-degree black belt in karate and teaches classes at United Martial Arts Academy. A talented artist, she also creates and sells one-line drawings of animals, donating half of the money to Lilo’s Promise – an animal adoption agency located in Voorhees.
With such a busy schedule, there might not seem to be a ton of down time, but Bompensa makes sure to decompress and live for the moments that count for much more later on.
“I guess, away from it all, I like to spend time with my friends. That’s what it’s all about. We can always just have a good time and get away from everything I do.”
For more information about Walnut Street Theatre and “Shrek,” visit https://www.walnutstreettheatre.org/season/mainstage.php.