As nine-year-old Susana Lopez-Chavarriaga stepped onto the stage at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., for A Christmas Carol in November 2019, she said she was both happy and sweating. 

“I was confident and proud, thanking God at that moment for the opportunity that He gave me,” Susana said. 

A fourth grade student at St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Rockville, Maryland, Susana, who was a cast member in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre, attributes her acting successes to God. 

A few years ago, when Susana was in the second grade, she went with her classmates on a field trip to see a theatrical production. When she arrived home, she told her mother, Catalina Chavarriaga, that she wanted to be on the stage. From there, “God put everything in Susana’s path,” Chavarriaga said. 

Chavarriaga remembers noticing Susana’s talent in her early years. “She started at a young age to have a gift… with thinking, dancing and acting,” she said. 

Susana joined the children’s choir at the Shrine of St. Jude at the age of five, and began taking classes at the Adventure Theatre Academy in Rockville a few years later. 

It was ultimately at the recommendation of an Adventure Theatre Academy teacher that Susana auditioned for a role in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre last summer. Once she secured the part as an ensemble member, rehearsals picked up and Susana spent four hours each evening and 10 hours on the weekends to prepare for the production.

“This is worth it,” Chavarriaga said. “It was an amazing opportunity for her, and we learned a lot.” 

Both Susana and Chavarriaga said the school community at St. Jude was extremely supportive as Susana balanced fourth grade and a play production at the same time. 

Glenn Benjamin, the principal at St. Jude, told Chavarriaga that, “'whatever (Susana) is going to do, she is bringing God’s Word',” Chavarriaga remembered. “'She has the base of faith'.” 

Susana said she carried the values she learned at St. Jude to the theater community. 

“We learn to show kindness and be humble, and honest,” Susana said.

When Susana looks to the future, she said she’d love to play a part in a stage production of Frozen II or Annie, but she’s open to wherever the future goes. 

“The most important part is that she is happy,” Chavarriaga said. “This is a hobby. She has the potential, but she has to discern what is best for her. I want her to just be the girl that she is; I’m sometimes scared in this media that she might change.” 

Her family hopes that her participation in productions can encourage other families to get involved. 

“We want to be an example for other kids that might want it, but might be afraid to do it,” Chavarriaga said. “It’s not impossible, just follow your dreams.”