Schulberg lives childhood fantasy of baubles and ballgowns

Caleigh Stephens

“When I’m Cinderella, I’m not Claire,” junior Claire Schulberg said.  “When I’m Cinderella I kind of forget about my life as a high schooler and it’s like another life.”

Schulberg has worked with the high-schooler run company Once Upon a Song since late September, and dresses up as Cinderella, her assigned princess and one of her personal favorites.  Founded by Eden Ferguson, a student at Terra Linda High School, Once Upon a Song provides storybook characters for events such as children’s birthday parties, fairs, and parades.

Photo courtesy of Claire Schulberg

Since Schulberg is relatively new to the job, she has not yet gone to a birthday party, but she has attended a 6-hour fair in San Anselmo, where she spent the day interacting with children.

“The majority of the fairs is taking pictures, talking with the kids,” Schulberg said.  “I remember my cheeks hurt so much from smiling the whole day.”

It was a long hot tiring day, especially in a ballgown, according to Schulberg.  She handed out flyers and candy and walked the length of the parade, and some of the princesses sang songs.

“You are a like a celebrity,” Schulberg said. “You walk and people just know who you are from the colors or the hair, and all these little kids come up to you.”

When Schulberg starts working at birthday parties, she will spend about an hour doing crafts, singing, and interacting with the children, according to Schulberg.

Ferguson and her mother make and order wigs and elaborate costumes, ensuring that every detail is perfect.

Photo Courtesy of Claire Schulberg

“Their whole job is making sure the girls and boys can’t tell,” Schulberg said.  “You should look exactly like [the characters] and be exactly like them.”

Schulberg said she has had to study every aspect of Cinderella to get completely in character.

“The first weekend after I got the job, [Ferguson] sent me this crash course of videos of Cinderella. I would nitpick and see everything that she did from her hand movements to her facial expressions so that you really are the character,” Schulberg said. “You have to convince [the kids] that the person they see on the screen is actually who they are meeting in person.”

She has to slip into the mind of the princess, and truly become the character, according to Schulberg.

“When you put on the costume and the wig and everything, you are this person,” said Schulberg.  “You can’t think about what homework you have or what’s going on after school, you have to think about what your character is, and be who she is.”

Schulberg describes a responsibility to meet the high expectations that the children and parents have for her character.

“There’s this job you have to fulfill of convincing kids that you are [the character],” Schulberg said.  “Whatever princess I am, she’s popular and has this huge following and you have to live up to these kids’ expectations for who she is.”

It is a role reversal of sorts, as Schulberg is now in the shoes of the princess she looked up to and idolized when she was younger.

Schulberg is an Advanced Drama student, and believes that the job has helped her greatly with her acting skills.

“It is really good training because you are playing a character for a different audience than you usually perform to,” Schulberg said. “This is a way not only to play a character, but convince people you actually are a character.”