This feature was written by Studio MSP writers. While some of our advertisers were sourced, no advertiser paid to be included.
The Actress: Audrey
You might recognize Audrey Mojica from one of her many roles around the Twin Cities theater scene. She’s been Annie at the Children’s Theatre. She’s answered to Matilda. She’s even faced the Grinch as Cindy Lou Who. Audrey, 16, has been in professional productions since she was 11, but the Minneapolis teen has been performing for her family for as long as she can remember.
“My family was always watching and listening to musicals and music around the house, so I spent a lot of time coming up with ‘performances’ for them,” she says. “I still do!” Audrey currently takes voice lessons, and she’s attended dance and acting classes at Lundstrum Performing Arts, but she finds she learns most just being in a theater space. When she’s in a show, Audrey spends roughly five to 10 hours a day, six days a week, at the theater. “I love it all,” she says. “I like how you can find connections between yourself and the character. And there is something so magical about putting yourself in and really feeling the story all around you.”
Her next role is Natalie in Next to Normal at Theatre Latté Da this spring. ‘This is going to be one of my first more mature roles, and I’m so excited,” she says. “Sometimes I wonder if I might try film or another form of art, but I’ll be a theater kid till I die.”
“My family was always watching and listening to musicals and music around the house, so I spent a lot of time coming up with ‘performances’ for them. I still do!” —Audrey Mojica
The Author: Ari Ella
At 10 years old, budding author Ari Ella has as many books to her name as candles on her birthday cake. It began as a love of drawing at the young age of 2, but soon, Ari Ella found she enjoyed moving the fun ideas that flitted through her mind onto paper. “Writing makes the dreams in my mind real,” says the fourth grader. “I like to hold my ideas in my hands.”
Her first book, Ella and Kay Kay, was published in 2019 and is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. It tells the story of a 6-year-old’s quest to befriend her new baby sister. Seeking inspiration from real life, the Roseville writer has recently started publishing guided journals for girls and boys, too. “My mom taught me a ton about how journaling is healthy for the mind and spirit,” she says. As a result, Ari Ella encourages hopeful writers to always carry a pen and paper. “You never know the exact moment a great book idea might come to you!”
“My mom taught me a ton about how journaling is healthy for the mind and spirit. You never know the exact moment a great book idea might come to you!” —Ari Ella
The Gymnast: Maddie
Handstand contests are not for the faint of heart, especially if the one challenging you is 10-year-old Maddie Zintl. But her mom, Ashley, is no stranger to the flips, twists, and turns that accompany the life of a gymnast, thanks in large part to TAGS Gymnastics. Ashley trained as a competitive gymnast at the Eden Prairie gym before moving on to compete at the collegiate level, so when Maddie started challenging her mom to handstand contests at the young age of 5, Ashley decided to enroll Maddie in a tumbling class. It was quickly evident that the apple did not fall far from the tree.
After five years of learning the ins and outs of the floor, bars, beam, and vault, Maddie is well on her way to following in her mother’s footsteps. Maddie has spent the last two years competing, and she placed first at the state meet in all-around and on beam. “I really like getting challenged by my coaches to learn new skills,” says Maddie. “And I love meets because you get the chance to show off all your hard work.” Maddie spends roughly 14 hours a week in the gym, but her mom says they spend much more time practicing tricks at home. “She is always begging me to do more gymnastics with her—before practice, after practice, weekends,” she says. “We share such an intense love for gymnastics together—we have a lot of fun.” Handstand contests included.
The Musician: Arthur
Loving a car chase scene in a movie isn’t unusual for a 7-year-old boy, but when that chase is set against a soundtrack written for and played by said 7-year-old—that’s unique. Arthur Scott started playing the violin when he was 4 years old. He added the piano to his repertoire at age 5, and composition when he was 6. “My parents are both musicians, so music has always been a part of my life,” says the St. Paul native.
He currently spends about 25 hours a week working on his craft. He takes piano, violin, and composition through MacPhail Center for Music, and he’s also involved in the House of Hope Choir School and Minnesota Youth Symphonies. He even had a piece premiered by his choir in February. “Practicing every day is challenging,” he admits. “But I love playing Grieg on the piano and any fast piece on the violin.” His favorite, however, is composition for car chases. “I definitely want to be a movie composer when I grow up.”
“Practicing every day is challenging. But I love playing Grieg on the piano and any fast piece on the violin. I definitely want to be a movie composer when I grow up.” —Arthur Scott
The Dancer: Savannah
If you ask dancer Savannah Manzel, 12, about her proudest moment on stage, any one of her many options is sure to impress. She might tell you about the time she traveled to Italy and performed in a gala with the Youth American Grand Prix. Or maybe she’ll relay details of what it was like to dance in the semifinals on the World of Dance stage in front of Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo. Or if you ask next year, she could regale you with tales from her planned trip to Israel to perform with the International Contemporary Ensemble.
Suffice it to say, this Lake Elmo dancer has twirled her way around the world, and she has no intention of slowing down. Savannah currently spends about 15 hours a week training at Larkin Dance Studio, where she’s studied since she was 2 years old. “I had a lot of energy as a child, and the dance studio was my favorite place to let it all out,” she says. “As I get older, I love the challenge and variety of learning all styles of dance. My favorite part is being able to express my emotions through movement.” Savannah encourages budding dancers to work hard but also keep a positive mindset. “Dance with your heart,” she says. “Dream big, and believe those dreams can come true!”
“I had a lot of energy as a child, and the dance studio was my favorite place to let it all out. As I get older, I love the challenge and variety of learning all styles of dance. My favorite part is being able to express my emotions through movement.” —Savannah Manzel
The Golfer: Ryan
For Maple Grove teenager Ryan Stendahl, golf isn’t just his passion; it’s the family business. Both of Ryan’s parents work at Rush Creek Golf Club, so Ryan, 17, says he’s been carrying around some version of a golf club since he was 3 years old. “My parents were always at the course,” he says. “My dad is the reason I play, so Rush basically became my second home.”
Ryan’s love of the game only intensified once his high school golf squad won the state tournament. “That team was so special,” he says. “It was five seniors and me as a freshman, so I didn’t know what to expect. They were so inviting, and we had so much fun.” His focus now is on trying to recreate that experience for his upcoming high school season. He splits his time between training at Optimal Performance Golf and hitting the links with his coaches. “It’s always been about the process of practicing and seeing yourself get better,” he says. “There is no better feeling than practicing a shot and pulling it off in a tournament.”
The Engineer: Arwen
Most think of a piano as an instrument that produces music. But when Arwen Patell, 13, first looked inside a baby grand, she was shocked. “With each key I pressed, a hammer would hit another hammer, which would then lead to each note,” she says. “I was absolutely fascinated with how this machine could make such beautiful music.”
Arwen directed her interest toward learning more about engineering, particularly robots. “The idea that a machine can be made to meet a human need has intrigued me most,” she says. Frequent trips to the Science Museum of Minnesota only fueled that curiosity, and once Arwen was old enough, she joined her school’s robotics team. This year, with Arwen at the helm, the Our Lady of Grace robotics team won the Innovation Model Award at the FIRST Lego League competition. One judge was so impressed with Arwen’s presentation that they mistook the eighth grader for a parent volunteer.
Arwen is already looking forward to what’s next in her engineering career. She plans to study robotics in high school before going on to attend a prestigious university like Stanford or MIT. Eventually, she hopes to lead other aspiring engineers. “You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try,” she says. “One simple idea [might] lead to an invention that could change the world.”
Local Camps and Activities
Calling all aspiring acrobats, artists, engineers-to-be, and mini maestros! this is your jumping-off point for summer fun.
SPORTS & FITNESS
Circus Juventas, St. Paul, 651-699-8229, circusjuventas.org Ages 6–18
Playground Plaza, Maple Grove, 763-228-3833, playgroundplaza.com All ages
TAGS Gymnastics, Apple Valley, 952-920-5342, Eden Prairie, 952-431-6445 tagsgym.com Ages 3–17
Camp Chippewa for Boys, Cass Lake, 218-335-8807, campchippewa.com Boys ages 8–17
Camp Fire Minnesota, Excelsior, 612-235-7284, campfiremn.org Ages 5–17
ARTS & CULTURE
Alliance Française, Mpls., 612-332-0436, afmsp.org All ages
Ballet Royale Minnesota, Lakeville, 952-898-3163, balletroyalemn.org All ages
Children’s Theatre Company, Mpls., 612-872-5100, childrenstheatre.org Ages 2–18
Concordia Language Villages, multiple locations, 218-299-3699, concordialanguagevillages.org Ages 2–18
MacPhail Center for Music, multiple locations, 612-321-0100, macphail.org All ages
Shell Lake Arts Center, Shell Lake, WI, 715-468-2414, shelllakeartscenter.org Grades 6–12
Way Cool Cooking School, Eden Prairie, 952-949-6799, waycoolcookingschool.com Ages 7–15
SCHOOLS & COMMUNITIES
Clover Montessori, St. Paul, 651-494-8001, clovermontessorischool.com Ages 16 months–6 years
Groves Learning Organization, St. Louis Park, 952-920-6377, groveslearning.org Grades 2–8
Minnesota Waldorf School, St. Paul, 651-487-6700, mnwaldorf.org Grades pre-K–8
Totino Grace, Fridley, 763-571-9116, totinograce.org Grades 10–12
Visitation School, Mendota Heights, 651-683-1700, visitation.net Grades pre-K–12
White Bear Lake Area Schools, White Bear Lake, 651-407-7501, whitebear.ce.eleyo.com All ages
YMCA Summer Programs, multiple locations, ymcanorth.org Grades pre-K–12
This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.