Photo by Mike and Dianne Barrett
If passion for acting helped Elizabeth Dampier kiss a frog, imagine what her next role will be like.
“I want to do a lot of everything because I enjoy doing it all,” says the bubbly 11-year-old actress. From a lead Disney role to live stage to commercials, this emerging actress from Madison manages a difficult balance at a tender age. She's able to delight audiences while still being a homegrown pre-teen who plays softball, attends Madison Middle School, takes piano and voice lessons and is big sister to three younger siblings.
Best known as the voice of the young Princess Tiana in Disney’s 2010 Academy Award nominated movie “The Princess and the Frog,” Dampier also graces Jackson area television screens in local commercials and recently expanded her acting experience by taking the stage as a Silly Girl in the Capital City's New Stage Theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Having started her acting career at age 7, Dampier’s work took an interesting twist when she landed the vocal role of the young Princess Tiana and began working with noted Disney animation directors John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Aladdin).
“When I got the part, I went out to L.A., and Breanna Brooks, who plays young Charlotte and I did our lines together,” Elizabeth said. “When I had to pretend that frogs were the most disgusting thing on earth, I didn’t have to act much because I really don’t like them.“
The experience culminated in premieres with her family in both Los Angeles and New Orleans. When she returned home to Madison, the young actress found a lot had changed.
“At school I got a whole different type of reaction,” she said. “I've had a whole lot more friends since then.”
Proud classmates and educators showed their support by arranging a field trip to the movie theatre to see Dampier’s work on the big screen. “I had friends giving me high fives afterwards and telling me ‘great job.'”
Dampier soon found herself receiving invitations for public appearances around the state such as the new Quisenberry Library opening in Clinton, singing the national anthem at a shareholder’s meeting in Pascagoula, signing and picture taking at Our House Inc. in Greenville and several birthday parties.
“The people were nice and excited to see me there,” she said. “They made me feel so comfortable. It was fun meeting all the little kids and even some of the big kids wanted my autograph,” she said.
Wanting to expand her repertoire of experience, Dampier applied for and was awarded a 2010 scholarship to attend a four-week summer camp at Jackson’s New Stage Theatre. With only a limited number of slots available, applicants were chosen based in part on recommendations and the submission of an essay. The students attended classes in singing, acting, dancing and prop building. Afternoons were reserved for the practice and production of “Beauty and the Beast,” which was performed their last week on the main stage.
“In addition to singing and dancing we also learned how to cut wood to make the props. I’ve never done anything like that especially the painting and helping build the set,” she said.
Dampier wasn’t the only one to enjoy the experience. Chris Roebuck, Education Director for New Stage Theatre said he found Dampier to be “down to earth, easy to get along with and a great delight. She knows how to be a kid but also knows when it is time to work. She is very focused and driven.”
Dampier had a great time in her role as one of the Silly Girls who followed the story's antagonist, Gaston, around.
“They are obsessed with him and he just loves their company because of all the attention he gets,” Roebuck said. Though the movie version only has a few short scenes for the girls, the theater version expands the roles to include two musical dances. “Broadway really beefed it up a pretty good bit” Roebuck said. “They almost stole the show”.
While her first love is performing, Dampier said she understands the importance of balancing acting with reality. She continues to audition throughout the South, but she's also focused on her education.
“I want to go to either the University of Southern California or the University of South Carolina. Both are known for having really good acting schools, but you also learn mathematics and other basics, you know, the real things you need to learn,” she said. She’s also toying with the idea of designing her own clothing although she admits she needs to learn to sew. But with a world to tackle, no matter what interests Dampier may follow through life, her heart will always bring her back to acting.