Shelterwood Performing Arts: Life Lessons on and off Stage

When Shelterwood students participate in the performing arts, the show itself is only the beginning. Performing arts offer students opportunities for real transformation, and many students experienced that during the recent fall play.

This season, Shelterwood students performed the first-ever fall play, Body, Body. “The play is about a high school girl, Madeline, who thinks she is fat,” explains Kyle Anderson, Shelterwood Performing Arts Coordinator. Other characters in the play are Madeline’s body parts, personified. “These body parts bring back painful moments from her past,” Kyle shares.

“The play is a raw story, and very real. Although it deals with body image, the issues the play deals with are more far-reaching.” Other topics included body image, pressure to be perfect, peer acceptance, eating disorders, self-confidence, self-acceptance and more.

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At the end of the play, Madeline breaks free from these negative messages and decides she wants to be the one in charge of where her life is going. With its relatable themes and meaningful messages, the play offered a platform for Shelterwood students to process through issues they face in their own hearts. “The story does not hide from emotion, bringing some real issues to the table,” Kyle explains. “It was easy for students to get into the story because it was relatable.”

Participating in the play was a turning point for some Shelterwood students, Kyle recalls. The night before the performance brought more than just dress rehearsal jitters, so Kyle paused the practice so students could process their emotions. “As we started talking, several students said they felt unqualified to perform the play, because they were still struggling with some of the messages,” Kyle said. “It was a time of honesty and peer encouragement. They grew closer and learned they do not have to live under those strongholds anymore.”

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Ten Shelterwood students — seven actors and three backstage — participated in the play. The performance was a campus-wide event, with all students and staff in attendance. “Having the whole Shelterwood community supporting them was very encouraging,” Kyle says. “The students had worked very hard and got positive feedback from everyone who watched the show.”

Performing arts experiences at Shelterwood are designed to teach students lessons that last far beyond the performance, including the value of work well done, the importance of collaboration and the joy of trying new things.

“One of our goals for Shelterwood performing arts is to give students the opportunity to gather with their peers and accomplish something they never would have accomplished on their own. Students get to practice that healthy team dynamic, when they come together, work together, push through challenges and develop that sense of community pride in what they accomplished,” Kyle says.

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Students at Shelterwood have many pathways to participate in the performing arts, from live plays to video projects and musical opportunities. They are able to build their work ethic and recognize the good fruit that results from hard work. “These students realized that hard work is a good thing,” Kyle adds. “The play was not perfect, but they succeeded. This is a life lesson they will take with them long after they leave Shelterwood.”

Perhaps the greatest gain is in their self-confidence. “It can be scary to perform in front of others, but through the process of preparing and practicing, a lightbulb goes off, and students realize, ‘I can do this! I can be successful!’”

“There is a special kind of confidence that results from working hard and being successful,” Kyle says. “Students walk around campus a little taller, and they are at peace because they are proud of what they have accomplished. When they start believing in their ability, they start to believe in themselves.”