When she was a child, Monica Betz put on shows and sang for people in her living room. In January, she’ll head with her mother to Los Angeles to pursue the real thing.
The 16-year-old rural Wauseon resident, who was recently named Actress of the Year at the International Modeling and Talent Association Convention in New York City, will audition with other hopefuls for a part in one of many television pilots set to be produced. It’s a long shot, but a chance Monica is willing to take in order to launch a career as an actress.
“I will stand rejection, and if not I will learn quick,” she said. “It’s tough, and I understand that. But I’m willing to work for it, especially if it’s something I’m this passionate about.”
Called a natural by her manager, Wendy Davis of the Starbound Talent agency in Toledo, Monica wants to eventually make her way into blockbuster movies. “Acting and performing arts has always been my thing. In five years, I want to be in L.A. working on film, going to as many auditions as I can, and making a name for myself,” she said.
Her name received a lot of attention at the IMTA Convention in July. In competition with 76 other girls in her division, Monica acted and sang her way through auditions that included monologues, cold reads of scripts, and a screen test as a television host. The judges were casting directors, agents, and managers.
The experience initially caused butterflies, but Monica refused to be intimidated. “I believed in myself, so I figured I’m going to walk into this, open mind, and just do what I came here to do,” she said.
In the end, she earned third place in monologue, second place in cold read, and first place in TV show host. She also placed in the top 10 in other categories, and was named Actress of the Year.
It was a thrill for Monica, who believed she hadn’t performed that well.
“I was incredibly surprised, but I was thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Monica, you worked really hard for this. Enjoy it,’” she said.
On the convention’s last day, a time agents use for call-backs of performers who impressed them, Monica’s received 16 requests.
While she chose her dream career early on, “I figured it was kind of something that was far, and I probably wouldn’t be able to get to it. It seemed more real as I got older.”
She took classes at Stars Unlimited Dance and Baton Studio in Wauseon, and was sought by a couple management agencies that, unfortunately, were too distant. During her sophomore year in high school, Monica played roles in productions of “The Crucible” and “Into the Woods.” She also sang in the A Capella Choir.
Last January, she auditioned for a spot at Starbound Talent to specialize in acting and singing. She received a full scholarship, and spent the next six months training in modeling, singing, dancing, and acting where notable actors such as Katie Holmes and Adrianne Palicki got their starts.
Davis said the moment Monica walked into her office she knew the budding actress had the potential to succeed.
“She came to me with natural ability, and she takes excellent direction,” Davis said. “She has a very intuitive way of interpreting any kind of character.”
This year, Monica will be home-schooled as the wait begins for a second call-back by one or more agents. Regardless of whether that happens, she plans to move temporarily to Los Angeles with her mother, Heidi, after the new year to try for a TV pilot.
She said her parents “are a little bit hesitant, but I think that they support it wholeheartedly because they know it’s very important to me. I’ve made it clear to them that this is something I absolutely want to do.”
Her father, Chris, said he’s excited for Monica’s prospects but remains somewhat uneasy about a life for his daughter in the entertainment field.
“We’ve seen a lot of child actresses and actors that have struggled over the years,” he said. “If she enjoys what she’s doing and she keeps her Christian roots and her faith in Christ, I’m hoping it’s not going to be a problem. I always want to encourage my kids to do what they want to do. We’re just hoping some of her success in New York will give her a little pull.”
Monica said she’s mindful of the struggles she faces as an aspiring actress. If it doesn’t work out, she would consider a specialized career in criminology. But for now, “I’m willing to do the work, to take the time” to reach her dream, she said.
Her father said he and Heidi are proud of her efforts, and want to see her succeed.
“I tell her, ‘Show them what you’ve got, and have fun,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.