For Francesca Carpanini ’12, appearing in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” during eighth grade at Crossroads School was a defining moment. “It was first time I felt myself lose myself in a role and how intoxicating that could be,” she says. “I had always wanted to be an actress. That was when I learned what it truly meant.”
By then, Francesca had been acting several years, starting at age 5 in a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a prophetic first experience with William Shakespeare.
Francesca joined Crossroads in seventh grade and immersed herself in the Middle School Players. “I did every single play I could,” she says. In Upper School, she performed three shows a day in Northern California with the Crossroads Touring Company, which combined her love of theater and of outreach. “I was able to experience communities I never would have seen otherwise,” says Francesca.
She now lives and works in New York City, where she initially moved to attend the Juilliard School. She reluctantly left Juilliard at the end of her third year because she got a job offer—a life-changing, door-opening offer—to appear in “The Tempest,” produced by the legendary Shakespeare in the Park. The setting of Manhattan’s Central Park was ideal, she recalls. “It would rain or the wind would blow, and we would just keep going.”
Francesca then made her off-Broadway debut in “Dead Poets Society” and, in 2017, her Broadway debut in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes,” alongside actresses Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney. “It was incredible to work with them every night,” she says.
She is grateful for the opportunities to do “some wonderful things,” notes Francesca, who recently was cast in the lead role of an upcoming indie film. But she cautions how challenging an actor’s life can be. “I still spend chunks of time unemployed and auditioning,” she says. The trick is maintaining a sense of joy and passion and belief in yourself.
And remembering something she learned at Crossroads: that storytelling has a larger purpose. “It’s really not about you,” Francesca says. “You can serve other people with laughter or sadness or compassion through your performance.”