Originally published in Foster Home Journal
This month we invited another one of our members to share their experiences with SMCT. Meet Michelle Chretien, in her own words…
My family moved to Foster in January of 2002. My twin sister and I were in kindergarten; transferring to Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School to begin first grade that coming September. I do not exactly remember how we came to be there, but one night, my dad, sister, and I found ourselves at SMCT’s performance of Cinderella, and a few months later, The Nifty Fifties. From then on, we were hooked. My sister and I came to realize that we not only wanted to watch the shows, we wanted to be a part of them. The first show we acted in was Oliver Twist. At the start of the audition my sister and I were nervous, but our mom encouraged us to wave mini American flags while we were singing. After wowing the audition panel with an enthusiastic rendition of “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” my sister and I found ourselves cast as orphans. We met so many wonderful people, and I was amazed by the amount of talent around us. Our next show was Folktown: The Story of the Fifth Mary (written and directed by Foster’s Bob Hollis). As an ensemble member of this show I was able to sign up for numerous roles including a devil, fox, a townsperson, and even a corn stalk! SMCT very quickly began to feel like a second family where it seemed as if everyone wanted the best for each other. Within a year, SMCT became a true family affair when my mom and dad joined us on stage for Peter Pan, and it just stuck. Since those early days, I have been involved in almost 40 SMCT shows alongside my family, both on the stage and off. In addition to being a cast member, I have had opportunities to learn the light and sound systems, stage makeup, and even play in the pit orchestra. I took clogging classes with Atwater & Donnelly, have served as the Youth Representative on SMCT’s executive board, and I was the first-ever Foster Junior Idol way back in 2007. Once I began college, I even had the opportunity to run the kitchen for our Shakespeare Abridged dessert theater, where I created and served a menu of all handmade desserts. Though my time with Swamp Meadow began as an orphan child, through the support of the entire company, it has provided me with so many experiences that I might not have experienced otherwise. All these experiences I have carried with me through high school and beyond.
I grew up hearing “speak from your diaphragm” and “if you don’t feel silly, you’re not doing it right,” which helped me grow confident in myself with in just about everything I do. I used the skills I learned in theater to write and perform research skits for robotics competitions, classroom presentations, and while assistant teaching kid’s cooking camps. To me, acting is not just playing a character on a stage, but having the confidence to step into someone else’s shoes while staying true to yourself. I believe this is an important part of life on and off the stage. I plan to carry it with me throughout my life. I am grateful for the people I have met and the experiences I have had and will continue to have with Swamp Meadow. Though I have taken a short hiatus from the stage due to a busy work schedule, I hope to find myself back there soon. I know that no matter how long it has been, I will always feel welcomed home.