Exchange student is able to continue doing something she loves


While at rehearsal for the play “Almost, Maine,” Lea Hilff does her homework in the theatre classroom. Photo by Agathe Masson

From being in a Swiss movie to starring in short films with friends, Lea Hilff now brings her talent in acting to the fall play “Almost, Maine.” Despite being away from home and in a different country, Hilff is still able to do the one thing she loves: acting. As an exchange student from Switzerland, Hilff is experiencing a completely different culture than she is used to, but acting has become a common ground where she is able to do something that is familiar to her even away from home.

Back home in Villnachern, Switzerland, Hilff had much experience in acting as part of an acting troupe in a neighboring town. Through this experience she established many lasting connections and developed unbreakable friendships. When she arrived in California she knew she wanted to experience something similar and saw her chance when auditions for the play came up.

“I thought that this was a great experience and it is meeting new people. It also gave me a chance to be able to grow as a cast member and it is a great way to do things together with others,” Hilff said.

Hilff’s past acting credits include being in a Swiss movie as well as some short films that she and her friends wrote, but the experience she has had here is different than what she is used to. Because the show is a school production, the timeline for rehearsal schedules has been a lot shorter as well as more time consuming. Where she is used to having about a year to work on some projects, Hilff had to adapt to only having about two months to prepare while also dealing with schoolwork.

“I think it was also one of my first times actually getting a script because usually it was more of not only acting, but more like you are making the story you act in the end,” Hilff said.

Despite having a lot of past experience with acting, the language barrier has been a challenge that she had to overcome at rehearsals. Even though Hilff has been learning English for years, not speaking in her native language creates a bit of disconnect between her and the scene. She had to work on enunciation and pronunciation of different words and phrases within her scene in order to make it flow and sound normal in English.

“[The language] affects your acting because the way that you don’t speak your own language it makes it a little less natural, so you have to work way more on staying in character,” Hilff said.

The friends she has formed in the theatre program have been a way for her feel more comfortable being so far away from home and have supported her in the show and outside of it. While Hilff does love acting and being on stage, some of her most unforgettable moments happen behind the scenes between all of the cast when everyone is just hanging out. These moments create a bond and for Hilff this is one the best parts about acting, creating another family in the cast.

Hilff said, “I’m really thankful for everyone helping me through this time and making this time really amazing, and I couldn’t have made more amazing friends then I have here.”

You can see Hilff’s performance at the final showings of “Almost, Maine” on Nov. 8 and 9 both at 7 p.m.