Profile: Pioneer senior Isabeli Buendia feels right at home on stage

Isabeli will be playing the Witch in the upcoming Pioneer Theatre Guild’s (PTG) production of “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

By Terry Jacoby/

Isabeli Buendia wasn’t forced onto the stage. Let’s just say she got a little push of encouragement – and it pushed her right into something she has truly loved ever since.

“I first got interested in theatre in the fifth grade after I had just transferred to a new school,” says Buendia. “It was required for all fifth graders to audition for the school’s Christmas program. I had never thought about singing or acting, and really knew nothing about it. I auditioned and got a solo in the program! Soon after that I joined the school choir and started doing the school musicals and plays!”

Now a senior at Pioneer High School, Buendia can’t imagine not performing. Her on-stage resume includes Mary Poppins Jr (Marry Poppins, St Francis Middle School); Little Mermaid (Ursula, Skyline Theatre); Wizard of Oz (Aunt Em, St Francis Middle School); and Les Miserables (Ensemble, Pioneer Theatre Guild).

“My favorite theatre highlight would definitely have to be when I was Mary Poppins in the eighth grade,” Buendia says. “It was my first ever lead in a musical, and being a part of that show made me realize that theatre and singing was something that I wanted to do in the long run. To this day I still remember the feeling I felt while singing the finale, and how I thought to myself wow I want to do this forever.”

The 17-year-old Buendia will be playing the Witch in the upcoming Pioneer Theatre Guild’s (PTG) production of “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

Click here for more information about show times and ticket prices.

“For me one of the biggest challenges has been learning the music,” she says. “The music in this show is very difficult! But thankfully our music directors have been amazing throughout the entire learning process and have helped us all immensely! What makes me the most excited about this show is that it’ll be performed in Schreiber Auditorium! This will be mine and a lot of the cast and crews first time performing in Schreiber. We are all very excited!”

Working with the PTG has always been exciting, challenging and rewarding. Buendia says it’s a special opportunity and experience working on a PTG production.

“I joined PTG my sophomore year after transferring from a different school and I was very anxious and scared to join,” she says. “I was scared that I wasn’t going to fit in, and really had no idea what to expect. However, to my surprise PTG welcomed me with open arms and blew away all of my expectations. That is what ultimately makes PTG so special and how it differs from any other club or sport. It welcomes you with open arms and allows you to truly be yourself, and express yourself in whatever way you’d like. Whether that be singing, acting, painting, designing, PTG gives you the opportunity to do so.”

Isabeli, the daughter of Tania Justavino-Buendia and Efrain Buendia, has been very busy during her three plus years of high school. She is a member of choir and a Business Manager for one of Pioneer’s Extracurricular Acapella groups. She also is the singer for Pioneer’s Jazz Band, a member of Pioneer’s Latinx Student Union, and part of Pioneer’s World Hunger Project Club.

She also likes to dance and dances at Ann Arbor Dance Classics (AADC).

Buendia is still trying to figure out her future but says being on the stage will be a big part of tomorrow. “I’m not completely sure what I want to study or where I want to study, but if it’s possible, I’d love to study something that involves theatre or music,” she says. “Double majoring is something that I’ve also been considering lately. Recently I’ve thought about majoring in musical theatre and possibly teaching, specifically in the field of special education. Who knows if this is what I’ll end up doing, but it’s a possibility!”

What she does know is that she’s glad and thankful that she has found something she loves to do. And suggests to others interested in theatre to go for it.

“My piece of advice for someone who’s thinking about getting involved in theatre is to not give up and to always be yourself,” she says. “It can be scary sometimes, but trust the process! Theatre is an amazing way to express yourself, and I guarantee that you’ll have an amazing time no matter what role or part of the process you’re involved in!”

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