by Kevin Dyer

The stage was set. I had practiced and rehearsed lines for months. We were all feeling the pressure. After all the hype, I knew I had to deliver. This was going to be the biggest show of the school year. Not only that, it was my final show; one last performance as a senior. All done up in my suit and tie, I stepped out into the bright lights, took a deep breath, and said, “Hi, I’m Mal Beineke.”

Of course, I was never predestined to stand in the spotlight by any means. There were plenty of times in my earlier years that I dreaded the thought of having eyes on me. However, I always had a closet obsession with arts and I found myself drawn to the atmosphere. Some would even say that I had a passion for it. It all started for me in seventh grade when I joined the chorus program. I found such a department as a safe haven. There was something about singing that was so freeing. I may not have started out with the utmost confidence, but I found myself striving for solos and for chances to be heard.  Unfortunately, things took a drastic turn when people began to tell me that I wasn’t good enough. Kids will be kids, but at my age, that didn’t dawn on me. I took everything to heart and that chorus room no longer felt like home to me. Eventually, I quit the program.

As the years rolled on, I entered high school, but I never thought much more about it. I wasn’t bitter. I just hadn’t exactly expressed interest in it like before. In my head, I just didn’t see where it made sense to put effort toward something I had already failed. Luckily, my advisor throughout high school was the chorus and drama teacher. She pushed me to get back in there, be the best I could be, and prove myself. I realized it wasn’t about anyone else anymore. It was about proving myself to me. I gradually began to get involved again. Whether it was singing a short solo or taking on a minor role, I put my all into it. Time progressed and I was back doing everything that I love. I wasn’t put down anymore or told I wasn’t good enough. The thrill that I obtained by putting myself out there overwhelmed me with happiness. There was nothing better than entertaining crowds and seeing the joy on their faces. I finally had that confidence back to do anything I wanted to.

Toward my junior year, I became very involved with both the chorus and drama departments. They each became a part of me and I couldn’t be without them again. Slowly and then all at once, I began auditioning for any and everything. I participated in every aspect that I could. I learned how to do the technical side, such as lights and audio. I did hair and makeup on casts. I went from behind the scenes to a small, ten second role and even the main focus of a show. I’ve portrayed numerous men and even women in my roles. Some of them were very minor and some very major. None of that mattered. I was having a blast. The art of becoming another person on stage is a phenomenal feeling. As if all that wasn’t enough, I had the incredible opportunity to serve as the chorus president for two years before I graduated. I held this title with pride and responsibility. I was able to go above and beyond for myself and my troupe because of the love I had developed in all our programs.  Looking back on it now, it’s hard to believe that I have come so far. Who could have known?

One last thing that I absolutely can not neglect to mention is the friendships that I have made and will cherish the rest of my life. The people that surrounded me started out as faces in a room. We all started out as bundles of nerves that had no idea where we were going or who we would be to each other. We became cast mates. We became friends. We are now family. They all became my safe haven; a place I knew I could flock to if I ever needed anything. The respect and understanding I share with every one of them is surpassed by nothing in this world. I couldn’t get that anywhere else.

This past summer, those same people and I started a children’s theatre program to introduce the arts to the youth of our county. We have made it our duty to give them that extra push. I look at the confidence and structure it gave me in life. I feel the passion and the love I have in my heart. If I can impact a child’s life in such a way and allow them to see the light it took me so long to find, just think of the things they could achieve and the places they could go. The possibilities are endless.

It’s amazing how one act of kindness can change your whole perspective on the future and on life. We need more people in the world willing to boost potentials and keep us all striving for greatness. It’s not enough to plant the seed. We’ve got to water it, put it in the light, stand back and watch it grow. No matter what the circumstances are, everyone deserves that chance to shine.