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"The stage is a second home." - Mandy Foster
Mandy Foster has performed in eight plays and 14 musicals throughout her high school career. The cast of characters she has portrayed reads like a who's who within the theatre community with roles as Sandy in Grease, Liesl Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and Grizabella in Cats. But for this 18-year-old aspiring actress, the most challenging character she has played to date is herself.
"The stage is a second home," Foster said. "It's somewhere you can go to escape from the troubles of your daily life and just experience bliss. It's kind of like stepping into someone else's shoes for a minute and pretending that nothing else is happening outside of that moment."
Performing has always been a family affair with the Fosters. Foster's mother was a member of the high school drill team, and her father sang in the church praise band. When Foster was five years old, she followed her father's footsteps and began singing in the children's choir at the family's church.
Foster's brother and sister, who are six and eight years her senior, respectively, also did their parts to nurture their younger sister's budding talents. As early as the second grade, Foster and her brother would wait after school until their older sister finished theatre rehearsals. Rather than sit idly by, the two decided to audition for the school musicals, and soon all three siblings were performing on stage together.
"it was really cool to see my sister, who I admired so much, on stage," Foster said. "She was just so talented, and you could just tell that she loved what she was doing. I think that's what really got me started, and I eventually tried it out for myself and it was really fun so I just kept going with it."
As Foster learned her way around the stage, a drama of a different sort began to unfold at home when her father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) in 2000. PD is a chronic, degenerative disorder of the central nervous system brought about by a loss of cells in the brain that control muscle movement. Symptoms vary from patient to patient but can include tremors, stiffness of the arms and legs, poor coordination, memory loss and dementia.
In the case of Mr. Foster, medication helped keep the disease at bay, and he continued in his respective career until the summer of 2008 when an unrelated medical condition opened the door to complications. While away on a business trip, Mr. Foster unknowingly contracted a staph infection that took a toll on his already fragile immune system. He spent the remainder of the year in and out of the hospital as his body fought to stay alive.