Guest blog by Emily Hinely-Clelland
By now, I am sure that you have heard the old saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Well, I am here to tell you that it’s true! As a child, I begged my mom to let me dance. After a lot of thought, she enrolled me in the nearest dance school she could find in our rural town. I was hooked by the first sound that came from my feet. I wanted to be a dancer! But there was one small problem… I had no rhythm. Without the ability to keep time, I would probably never amount to a very good dancer. Lucky for me, one dance teacher, Barbara James, saw my passion for dance and the spirit I had to learn. So, she pulled me aside, spent several hours making me shuffle and cramp-roll until my feet hurt to work on rhythm and timing. I never gave up. In fact, I practiced so hard, I broke a tap shoe. By the time she was finished with me, I had the rhythm and the drive to be great! I’m forever grateful to Ms. James for believing in me and my passion to dance.
I loved tap, but started trying other styles to see if I “had what it takes” to succeed. By the third grade, I was into ballet, jazz and clogging, where I excelled. I danced my way through elementary school and middle school. By middle school, I had worked my way to the Palmetto State Cloggers, an award winning State team. At 14, I was the youngest member! Then, the greatest thing happened… Our team was invited to perform at a local theatre for a Country and Western segment. Excitedly, I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back! You see, that theatre was Town Theatre, and the show was Showstoppers VIIII. I instantly fell in love with theatre, much like that feeling in my first pair of tap shoes. There was such “family” vibe with the cast, and a mesmerizing feeling when I saw them sing and dance at the same time. I knew, at that moment, I NEEDED to be involved in theatre; and, Town Theatre was a great place to start.
I spent the remainder of middle and high school performing at Town. It was such a wonderful place to spend my free time doing two things I loved… singing AND dancing! After my first show, I was invited to join the prestigious company known as Young Town Players where I met wonderful people that shared the same passion I had for being on stage. We had routines that encompassed the greatest Broadway shows and decades of music from the 1920s to the 1960s. It was more fun than I could ever imagine until I had to become a member of the “real world.” Unfortunately, I had to grow up and with that, came responsibilities like jobs and college. Sadly, I didn’t have as much time to do the things I wanted to do.
I ended up at the University of South Carolina and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Then I fell in love and got married. Many years (and many visits to Broadway) later, Chase, my husband, and I were talking about my theater years, when he suggested that I get back on stage. Because I like a challenge, I did.
I was quite ambitious, out of the gate, and tried out for Chicago in Camden… and I got in! All those feelings from the past came back. As it turns out, dance is like riding a bicycle. I could still do it! Once I walked out on that stage, I knew I needed to do more shows. I tried out at Town, but just wasn’t quite right for that show. I tried my hand at dinner theater and other theaters to gain experience in hopes of being able to get to that coveted stage where I fell in love. Two more tries, but no such luck. There are simply so many talented people in Columbia and only so many roles available. But as I said in the beginning… “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Two friends convinced me that I should try my luck at Town again with Spamalot. To be honest, I wasn’t really familiar with the show or Monty Python humor and was reluctant to try again. After all, auditions were in TWO hours! However, I grabbed my tap shoes, threw a song together and gave it a go.
A few weeks later, I got an email congratulating me on being cast as a Laker Girl. I am THRILLED to have an opportunity to sing and dance on the stage where it all began. I believe everything in life happens for a reason; and, Spamalot was the right show for my return to the Town stage. I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun at rehearsals. I am truly grateful to Shannon and Lou for this awesome opportunity to do what I love so much. I invite you to come to the “Bright Side” with a cast of “multi-talented people” who have, made me one of the “luckiest people” in Columbia.