Shawn Cannon has been in the “business” her whole life, and now is the owner/director of The Cannon Theatre in Littleton, MA. Her goal for the theater is to direct and produce comedies that are wholesome and family-oriented. She also teaches private voice lessons and runs a show choir. She gets her regular applause fix when she sings with her band, Blondes Have More Fun, on the weekends, and she still enjoys making others smile and feel good about themselves through theater and the arts.
I have a love-hate relationship with theatre and the arts. I started performing at a very young age, singing with my sister and brother, in front of pretty large audiences. I had been singing forever, or so it seemed – and in fact, had learned by singing in the car with the whole family – my parents included. I thought that it was what everyone did.
I still remember my first foray into the acting world. I wanted to play Cinderella when I was in fourth grade and acted and sang my heart out, only to find out that another girl got the pretty Cinderella part, and that I was the ugly Cinderella – the one that sat in the ashes, and wore rags. It was my first tough blow in the arts world.
I went on to keep singing, perfecting my voice by taking lessons, entering vocal contests, and getting a vocal scholarship. I took the scholarship and attended college – wanting to major in voice and drama. The world seemed to be my playground and I was sure that I was going to finally get everything that I wanted.
Fast forward a few years. I was young. I met a guy. I got married. I got pregnant. I was just another nobody, all of the sudden. My life changed drastically. Now I had a very tiny responsibility to take care of and I had to put my dreams on the back burner. It was a rude awakening, but I still kept that small blossom of hope deep, deep inside. It was asleep, but still alive.
I continued to work at doing the things that I loved the most – well, the best I could between motherhood and general homemaker. I was a singing waiter. I did some local theater. I sang in a few bands. I had three more children. I took acting classes. I directed a few plays. I wrote a few musicals. I did music directing. I choreographed a few shows. I costumed other shows. I did hair and makeup whenever I was pregnant. I modeled and did commercials.
But I could never figure out how to make it all work. I knew that I wanted to make something of myself, but I kept choosing my children instead. I always REALLY thought in my small diva mind that someday I would be discovered and be famous.
Yeah. Funny, huh?
We didn't have any TV shows to go on back then – aka American Idol or anything – and it was based, pretty much on luck….and being in the right place at the right time. No matter what I tried, I was always going to be the girl that had to sit in the ashes and wear the rags. I could never seem to wear the pretty dress and be the Cinderella that gets the prince. This was what I hated about the business – never feeling like you are good enough.
Then one day, I had an epiphany. It might have been more than one day – maybe a month or a year. But, gradually, I begin to realize that my dream wasn't really based in reality. I was fantasizing about a life that I couldn't possibly ever have – not being an active mother of five growing children and keeping the values and integrity that I tried to possess. What I had been doing my whole life was what I loved doing the most – working with children, directing others, doing music, singing, writing shows, doing costuming, and hair and makeup. This was what I really could do – and do it well.
I realized that I didn't need to be famous to feel good about myself and what I do. I didn't need that validation from the world. It only took a bright smiling face from a theater patron who had enjoyed a performance or a child that had started out terribly shy and then lit up the stage with her very first line—-that was all I really needed to make me feel that I had succeeded.
I feel…now…that my Cinderella has finally gotten her gorgeous gown. The hope that was always sleeping deep inside – is more about bringing joy to others through theater and the arts. It is my love. It is my passion.
I am finally alive.
Have you ever had that epiphany of thinking you weren't living your dream, but you really were?