Golden girl among finalists in national acting contest

Alea VanDeVelde

GOLDEN, Ill. -- Golden resident Alea Van De Velde, 12, has beaten out more than 2,300 other children to remain a contestant in the Focus On the Family's "Whit's End: Get in the Show" contest.

To be considered, Van De Velde submitted a video of her performing a prepared script. Judges first narrowed the field to 50, based upon the criteria of the performer's ability to convey emotions and reaction, proficiency in reading and unique vocal characteristics. Subsequent phases are determined by online fan voting.

"It was crazy," Alea said of making it into the top 25. "We were all just sitting around waiting for it to be released. My grandpa checked his phone and found out it was up. I rushed to my computer, but before I could get there, everybody just went crazy."

Alea has always been drawn to the concept of acting. She began participating in her school's drama club as soon as she was old enough. Her first role was at 9 years old, when she was an extra in a Quincy Community Theatre production.

"Being on stage just makes me feel good," she said.

Jennie Van De Velde, Alea's mother, said her daughter's acting ability comes from her capacity for empathy and willingness to put herself in someone else's shoes and see the world through their eyes.

She said the entire family is on pins and needles waiting for the next judging periods.

"It's kind of surreal, to know that there's that many entries across the nation," Van De Velde said. "We didn't know, when she got into the top 25, how many there had been. I thought maybe there were 100. When we got an email saying how many there had been, it made it all the more exciting."

The video was shot over the course of an afternoon in the family's backyard. The story follows a young girl with a ticket to an amusement park.

"This was very much her character," Van De Velde said. "Alea can be very excited and enthusiastic, and that's what this part called for."

The video may be viewed, and votes may be cast here.  Van De Velde's is the fifth on the list in the left column.

The next phase of voting, which will narrow the field to 10, closes on Friday, July 14. Phase three of voting will be July 17 to 23 and will determine three finalists. The top three entrants will be flown to Colorado Springs to compete in a live audition on Aug. 12. The live audition will be webcast and votes will be received at the contest website.

The contest winner will receive the opportunity to perform live on the Focus on the Family 40th Anniversary Cruise to the Bahamas Nov. 12 through 17.

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