Lindsay T Shelton

How'd I Get Here: From Stage to Stage

Posted on March 30, 2024  •  5 minutes  • 1014 words
Table of contents

Why Am I Talking About High School?


Recently, I was having a great conversation with my new friend Reid, and he asked me a question that really got me thinking: “What did you do in your past that prepared you for becoming an MVP?”.

I was a theater junkie: such a fan that I sometimes spelt it “theatre”. It started with a traveling community theater group that would put on a show in a week, and I auditioned every summer - it was the highlight of my year. I begged my parents to put me in theater classes, and they did. I got a role in “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” that I shared with another actress that required me to miss school for some performances, and I felt like an absolute rock star. I took improv classes and learned to think on my toes, and I took a year of dance after I ran into someone at the Theater in the Park audition one summer. I learned to memorize monologues and get up on stage and perform, regardless of any nerves I may have had. Who knows, maybe I was born without the nerves, just destined to make a fool of myself in front of a crowd with no shame whatsoever.

When I got to high school, I laser focused in on Thespian Troupe #888 and made it my entire world. Freshman year, I learned that hey, I’m not that great of an actress despite my years of experience, and I didn’t get a part in any of the drama or comedy plays that we had. I learned to deal with that disappointment because, hey, not everyone can get the part they want. From there, I learned to contribute in any way I could, so I would do tech for the plays I didn’t get cast in. From costumes to props to stage managing, I was up for anything and everything, and I learned by just diving in and figuring things out with the support of upperclassmen who had been there before.

But musicals, those were my jam. Freshman year, I made it in the ensemble of “Brigadoon” (go Clan Dalrymple!) and by sophomore year, I moved my way up in the world to a role as a featured extra in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”. I got to stand on a desk and do a trust fall back into the arms of six other actors while screaming about having no coffee, and I felt like the star of the show. By junior year, I actually got a supporting role as Gertie Cummings, the one with the annoying laugh in “Oklahoma” who made out with several of the male actors. I was terrified but so proud of myself for having the most annoying laugh and earning that role. Senior year was a bit of a backslide in the fall musical for the new President of the Thespian Troupe (aka me), but I got to play the lead in the spring repretory musical, “Lucky Stiff”. In front of a crowd of hundreds, I sang, knit (terribly), danced, and sang some more but while wearing just a slip (the school principal had some issues with that scene, whoops). The only bad part was that I had to play a woman who was a dog lover - the greatest acting challenge of my life.


So Wait, WHY Am I Talking About High School Though?

I’m getting to my points soon, if you didn’t catch them already. So, yada yada yada, went to college, became a teacher, taught in front of a hostile audience every day for 10 years, and I learned a lot of lessons from that too, don’t you worry. But really, what’s making me think about high school now?

I’ve been lucky enough to be picked as a speaker at a few conferences in the past few years, and I’ve gotten great feedback about my speaking abilities. I have (almost) zero fear about submitting and presenting to pretty much any conference, and I have my theater background to thank for that. I can get up in front of a crowd and talk about pretty much anything, and I can do it with a smile on my face and a joke or two thrown in (no guarantees about the quality). I can think on my feet and answer questions that I didn’t prepare for, and I can do it all with a confidence that I don’t really have but know how to fake. I can stand (or preferably sit, I have a bad back) in front of a crowd and not be afraid of what they think of me, because I’ve been practicing for this without really knowing it my whole life. And I’ve learned that even if I’m not picked, I can still contribute in other ways, like writing blog posts or helping the community out on Twitter (I refuse to call it X).

So, how does this help you, adult who can’t go back and be in high school theater? Well, I think there are still some lessons that anyone can take away from my mostly self-indulgent trip down memory lane. You can learn to contribute in any way you can, even if it’s not the way you wanted to. You can learn to take risks and try new things, even if you’re not sure you’ll be good at them. You can learn to be confident in yourself and your abilities, even if you’re not sure you have any. And you can learn to fake it until you make it, because sometimes that’s all you need to do to get where you want to be.

So sit your kids or your pets or your houseplants down and start practicing in front of them. Know that, unlike my teaching days, audiences at conferences will not be hostile and want you to thrive. And know that you can do it, even if you’re not sure you can. And if you can’t, well, you can always write a blog post about it.

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