Isabelle Van Vleet is an actress based in Auburn, ME. After starring in a production of Oliver! as an orphan boy with a solo line at 10 and seeing the national tour of Phantom of the Opera at 12, Van Vleet knew her future lay with the arts. After attending NYU Tisch School of the Arts, her resume now boasts credits such as Father Figures (Dances With Films Festival, directed by her husband!) Inventing Anna (Netflix), FBI: Most Wanted (CBS) ASAP: Live (Barclay’s Center), SIGN (Off-Broadway), Sherlock Holmes (Portland Stage). Offstage/screen, she’s an avid gardener, calligraphy artist, and baker! Van Vleet is extremely passionate about bringing better representation to the arts – particularly for younger audience members – to prove that a career exists for people that look like them. Her advice to young artists? “Find your community… and find your joys outside of your chosen field… they will keep your cup filled.” Read on to learn more about Isabelle Van Vleet and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Isabelle Van Vleet
Heritage: Filipino Chinese Dutch Irish
Hometown: Northridge, CA
Current City: Auburn, ME
Father Figures which is a short film directed by my husband Alessandro Chille that premieres at the Dances with Films Festival at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Inventing Anna (Netflix), FBI: Most Wanted (CBS) ASAP: Live (Barclay’s Center), SIGN (Off-Broadway), and Sherlock Holmes (Portland Stage)
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Find your community! Having a community you can share your wins, losses and everything in between is so important in this business in terms of longevity. I would also say find your joys outside of your chosen field, and hold onto those during the slow times – they will keep your cup filled.
How did you get your start?
My first introduction to acting was when I was ten years old, I auditioned for my community theatre’s production of Oliver! and I was cast as one of the orphan boys. I had one line: “I’ve brought the boy, ma’am!”
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
Meeting Baayork Lee who is a Broadway legend (A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, Promises, Promises) while I was interning at the Public Theater in NYC, and later on working with her and performing with the National Asian Artists Project community. I also have many fond memories of singing with Broadway Barkada which was another community of Filipino artists who have all performed on Broadway, many of whom are opening Here Lies Love at the Broadway Theatre this summer!
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
I think the biggest challenge for me is reminding myself that I have a place in this profession and that I have invested enough time and money to safely say that I belong and to trust the work.
Who do you admire?
The creatives that I admire are Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Summer I Turned Pretty), I think her work has really expanded the roles Asian Americans ( especially those of us who are mixed-race) are able to play, and diversified the landscape where more people are able to see that these types of stories deserve to be told and have a track record of being successful. Other creatives I admire: Sandra Oh, Lucy Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ali Wong, Ruthie Ann Miles, the list goes on and on.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
I think I was about twelve when I saw a touring production of Phantom of the Opera. After seeing that show, I knew I wanted to take part.
Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?
To be honest with you, I had no idea where I’d be at this stage in my life! Haha but I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
Several. Catering, hostessing, moving boxes, babysitting, etc. You name it!
Do you have any other “special skills?”
Gardening, baking, calligraphy
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
I am also a voiceover artist!
Where did you study at?
I went to NYU Tisch School of the Arts at the Atlantic Acting School.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
Broadway, a series regular role on a hit TV show, and acting in a major motion picture feature film.
What do you love most about what you do?
Opening minds and dialogue about important topics – that’s often the goal. A bonus is having younger audience members see someone who looks like them onstage or onscreen showing them that this career is possible and they are seen.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I think it’s important to recognize that we’re all human, and not every performance is going to be Oscar-worthy, but the act of continuing to get back up and taking classes and workshops is a win in and of itself. Memorizing a scene or monologue and putting it on tape is also a win. It’s the journey of becoming a better actor and storyteller that is the ultimate joy.
How do you deal with performance anxiety?
Pema Chodron has this great book called “Comfortable with Uncertainty”, in it she talks about this Buddhist meditation practice called “Tonglen” and that changed the game for me. Every time I experience anxiety, I turn to that meditation practice. My therapist also introduced me to square breathing, and that has also been a huge help.
How do you prepare for a role you consider difficult personally (such as villains or antagonists), whether it hits too close to home or goes greatly against your personal beliefs?
It’s crucial, whatever type of character you’re playing to always side with them no matter what, because in the character’s mind, they’re in the right, and to keep your performance as truthful and grounded as possible you have to take their side.
Since so many of us spent a lot of time isolated during the pandemic, how has that experience specifically changed your creative or preparation process or your outlook on life?
There was certainly an art in letting go of a lot of aspects of my life, especially during the pandemic. Not tying my identity to my career or productivity was the hardest to shed. Redefining my worthiness and where I find my joys were the biggest lessons I took away from my time in isolation too.
As a storyteller, how do you pick the stories you want to work on and what goes into putting a story together, whether on stage, page, or film?
The older I get, the more I’m drawn to the female-identifying characters that are strong, and are not afraid to speak their mind but are also multi-layered. In terms of putting a story together, I think it’s important to collaborate well with a team of people that you trust, do the research and get on the same page for the vision you’re looking to execute.
What inspires you?
Many things, I would say music, nature, a good book, a piece of art, and just being a constant observer is often how I get inspired.
To find out more on Isabelle Van Vleet, please visit her at:
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