United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.
Updated: Aug 9, 2021
Image Courtesy of Sally Shedd
Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Sally Shedd.
Affiliation(s) (past and present): Theatre Professor at Virginia Wesleyan University
How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?
I’ve been doing theatre ever since I can remember. I started performing publicly when I was three years old. I sang “In My Own Little Corner” from Cinderella at the Franklin County Fair in Ozark, Arkansas. I’ve been teaching theatre at the university level for about 20 years now. My mother was a public school music teacher, and for awhile I didn’t think I wanted to teach. Then I started doing it (teaching private flute lessons then acting lessons) and I found I really love it.
How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?
About 20 years now. I came here to take a position at what was then Virginia Wesleyan College.
What advice would you give young women going into your field?
Everyone’s journey is different but, in large part, success is about being present (physically of course but also in terms of engagement) and doing the work. Be suspicious of what looks like a short cut. Also: Be KIND. The best theatre is born from community not competition.
Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?
Anyone in theatre will tell you that there are almost always fewer female roles than male roles available and many more women than men auditioning. This can lead to female actors being rather unpleasant to each other – particularly in the audition setting. Ask yourself, do you want to be a person who sends out that kind of negativity? When I’m lucky enough to get cast, I’m thrilled of course. But as actors we don’t have control over whether or not we get cast. We do have control over how we treat others. Once again: Community should be valued over competition.
What has been your greatest challenge and what have you learned from it?
COVID was a huge challenge. I mentored student directing projects in the fall of 2020 and then directed a musical revue in spring 2021. Theatre artists are always entrepreneurial to a certain degree but the changing COVID situation really enhanced the need to adapt and be creative with rehearsal and performance choices. I just kept saying to myself (and to the students): “We are doing a show come hell or high water.” And we did (virtual in the fall, streamed in the spring). We adapted on the fly. We sang and danced for 30 minutes at a time and then changed rehearsal spaces (imagine doing that for a three hour rehearsal!). We worked in masks. We did whatever we had to do because the WORK is what is important. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these dedicated students was an experience I will never forget. A real gift in a time of such darkness. An honor and a privilege. It renewed my commitment to teaching and to performance.
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