Center Stage: I’m here at the fabulous State Theatre with none other than our own Shannon Garahan. So, what’s going on?
Shannon Garahan: Well, I’m about to do my last Center Stage show ever. It’s sad and exciting. Sad is obvious, because it’s my last show, and exciting because I’ve been trying to picture this day for my whole life, and I just think it’s going to go very well.
CS: There are a lot of people who have been through the school who say they have grown up at Center Stage, but you have literally grown up at Center Stage. Talk about that.
SG: Well, when people say they’ve grown up at Center Stage, they mean they come every day for classes. I come every day for classes, and then I would just come in and sit in the room and watch my mom teach, I was here besides the scenes a lot, just watching what would happen backstage.
CS: You were here as a fetus.
SG: Oh, yes, I was, and my little fetus feet would run on stages and all over the dance floors. I would help at camps every single year. I was just involved with everything.
CS: When you were little, was it something that you knew was your life, or were you there because your mom was there? What was that like?
SG: Every day if it wasn’t a dance day, my mom would ask me if I wanted to come watch her teach, and at first I just wanted to be with my mom, and then it became a routine. I didn’t want to stay home and watch TV. I wanted to come and watch her teach, and watch these kids grow, and if she had a break, I would just be here dancing all over the floor. It was just good outside-school stuff for me to do.
CS: How old were you when you started competition?
SG: I started really young. I made company at four-year-olds. It really was great that I started so young, because I remember just being fearless whenever I stepped onto the stage, and that carries to know. I never feel scared when I’m about to step out onto stage. It’s just a reality of mine.
CS: When you were that young, did it ever feel like something you were being forced to do, or was it always something that you looked forward to.
SG: Oh, no, it was something I looked forward to. I could not wait to go up those few weekends and do competition, and especially the shows, just being able to walk backstage, and just being in the theatre, feeling that I was a part of it.
CS: And you started acting very young. What was your first acting role in the little kids’ shows?
SG: Well, that was Polly Brown in “The Boyfriend” at the Vo-Tech. And it was not only my first acting role, but I had a solo song, “The Boyfriend.” I remember standing on stage. It was the first time I was ever on stage alone, and I remember looking out into the audience full of people, and I tried to make eye contact, but I wasn’t quite ready for that. So I just stared into the lights and I walked off stage and I was blind, but I thought, “I just got through my first solo song.”
CS: When did you start the big shows?
SG: That started in seventh grade. I was twins with Cassie Dougherty, and we got to be very snobby little girls that were rich and famous. And then the next year I was Amber in “Extreme Makeover.” That was big for me, because I was counterpart with a senior, and I was in eighth grade. I remember I had to start being mature, because it wasn’t just a little girl acting. I was up there learning the role with a senior, and I thought this is my time to make a big step.
CS: Who was your counterpart?
SG: It was Tarin Schneider, and she was very responsible about learning all of her stuff, and there were a bunch of rehearsals where she couldn’t be there, and I knew I didn’t want to let her down and think that this eighth-grader didn’t know what she was doing, so every time she came back into the room, I would be like, “Okay, Tarin, this is what we did for this scene. This is the blocking for this number. Please don’t kill me.”
CS: You’ve done lead roles ever since then? What’s your favorite?
SG: Well, there was Zoey obsessed with yams. I don’t know if that was my favorite, but she was really fun. I guess I’d say this year’s character. She’s very much like me – well, the old me was very hidden, and didn’t really want to speak out. So it’s kind of cool being me now, and taking what was me, and adding that back into the role, and remembering what it was like to be scared like that.
CS: So when did that change, and what changed it?
SG: The confidence you mean? Well, I guess I would say my confidence really built my Sophomore year. That was when I started getting a lot more attention in dances, and in my acting and singing, and I started realizing that I do have a talent and I wanted to build on it. I started going to the gym, and getting into shape. That really helped me believe in myself. And ever since then I’ve been so much more driven than I ever would have imagined myself to be.
CS: So what happens next? Where are you going?
SG: Well, I go off to Montclair. I don’t do the Musical Theatre program there. As much as it is a very good program, I want to be able to branch out and do as much as I want. Because I really loved Center Stage and being here, but now I feel like I’m eighteen and I’m ready to go out and be in this theatre company and that theatre company, and I want to go out and do as many auditions as possible. And even if I don’t get it the first few years, I realize that that’s normal, and I just want to keep trying until I finally get something, because I want to pursue musical theatre.
CS: Who has your career? Who do you look at and think, “That’s where I want to be?”
SG: Well, I just recently saw Keely in “Memphis” at the State Theatre. And I saw her in the Ensemble, but I know she went on as the lead, she was the understudy. I remember looking at her since I was little. In seventh grade when I was in the big show, she was one of the leads and had this big song and this big part, and I remember thinking she was so brilliantly talented, and she was always just so driven. And in 2012 she choreographed “Anything Goes,” when I did it over the summer, and she just gave me such brilliant choreography, and even gave me tips in my singing, and she was such a big help. I would feel comfortable asking her questions. She was always so nice and helpful to me and I really felt like she knew what she was talking about.
CS: So she started going down a path you see yourself going down. And what’s the end? Who is there in the whole performing world that you see having the career that you would like to have?
SG: Well, that would be Sutton Foster. Words can’t describe how much I’m obsessed with that woman. I almost faint every time I think about the possibility of meeting her. She really is somebody I look up to, because I see so many Broadway performers who are really strong actors, but can’t really dance, but she is so strong in everything. I remember when I was looking up the part of Reno when we were doing “Anything Goes,” and that was the first time I saw her do anything, and I fell in love with her. I was like, “She’s kicking over her head, she can tap, and I love tap.” She is just my complete role model.
CS: Can you see yourself being there, in ten years, can you see that?
SG: I would say yes. I feel like I can be as talented. I just hope I can get noticed like that. But yes, I can see myself being like her in ten years. That’s what I’m working for.
CS: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
SG: Well, I would just like to say that I don’t mind putting out there that I didn’t make it into the programs that I auditioned for at colleges. But I didn’t let that knock me down. You look at me and you see such a confident person. Because I realize so many people go into this business, and if you let one thing like that define you, then it’s not for you.
CS: Absolutely. There are a lot of people out there waiting to tell you, “No,” and it’s about holding on to what you know to be your own natural gift and talent that you have to offer is special.
SG: Exactly. I know my talents, and I’m very proud of the person that I am, and I’m not going to let anybody else tell me that this isn’t right for me, because I know it is, and I’m going to keep trying until somebody finds me and says, “I want to work with her.”