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Taking the Stage: Our Favorite Theater Roles Vignettes

Some people were born for the stage — and for some, their first time in the spotlight was a leap of faith.
Some people were born for the stage — and for some, their first time in the spotlight was a leap of faith. By Courtesy of Angelina Ng/Canva

Some people were born for the stage — and for some, their first time in the spotlight was a leap of faith. Here are some of our writers’ favorite memories on stage, and the ways that they fell in love with performing.

Annie from “Annie”

A loud seven-year-old with near-red hair, I was obviously the first choice for Annie in my Catholic school’s production of the musical. I practiced whenever possible: running through my lines at soccer practice, singing in class — I even held a seance with Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself to really understand the musical’s zeitgeist. When opening night came, I delivered each line with confidence, leaning into the titular orphan’s spunk — perhaps leaning into it too much. At the end of the musical, Annie learns that the couple that is supposedly her long-lost parents, the Mudges, are in fact nothing more than common crooks. Shaken, wearied, and betrayed by the revelation, Annie lets out a burst of anger, cursing the names of those who have deceived her: Or at least, my Annie did. I doubt swears were included in the original script, but really, if the authors had known Annie like I did, they would have too.

— Kit A. Terry

Princess Fiona from “Shrek the Musical”

When I was in eighth grade, I decided to audition for my middle school’s production of “Shrek the Musical.” In a school that only had 30 students per grade, being moderately good at singing made me a shoo-in for Princess Fiona, the show’s female lead. The next few months of preparing the show were filled with many experimental green eyeshadow looks, immense vocal strain, a green velvet dress that came to feel like a second skin, and many conversations that ended with me reiterating that yes, I was sure that I didn’t want to wear an orange wig. When I finally stepped out onto the stage in my bright green dress, tattered black heels, and a pointy tiara, I truly felt like I had become a princess.

Ultimately, performing as Fiona was one of the first times in my life that I’ve understood what it feels like for hard work to pay off. As an added bonus, I received flowers, standing ovations, confessions from my siblings that they never knew I could sing, and a fun story I’ll always be able to tell.

— Staff writer Nell G. Cunningham can be reached at

Monkey King from “Journey to the West”

As a child, my mother would make me recite endless Chinese plays, a routine I quickly began to dread. So, my eight-year-old self instead found ways to rebel against the monotony, making dramatic shows of these classic plays. Imagine me as the Monkey King, over-energetic and with an obnoxiously high voice. For my very first one-woman show, I memorized all of “Journey to the West,” assemblings costumes and choreographing fake fights with … myself! My mom applauded my enthusiasm but sighed when I scream-cried the heartfelt monologue that the Monkey King delivers on the true meaning of life.

Indeed, my Chinese lessons were filled with me screeching, my mom shaking her head, and pedestrians outside speculating on the origins of the odd pterodactyl noises from our house. From growing scarily quiet to hollering at the play’s high moments to scaling the walls performing different scenes, I would over-exaggerate every emotion I found in the text. These moments pushed me onto rainbow-colored stages, fueling my love for performing within this makeshift home theater.

– Emily L. Xing

Salesman 1 from “The Music Man”

My favorite role was when I was in the ensemble of my high school’s production of “The Music Man.” Despite having been previously cast in lead roles, this role was all encompassing. I whirled around as the production’s dance captain, horribly played the trumpet for the first — and last — time as a band kid, and opened the show as Salesman 1, setting the pace for its fast-talking and tongue-twisting opening number “Rock Island.” Entering the theater program as a freshman, this role was important as it gave me community amongst the other ensemble members who excitedly stayed after school to learn our group numbers. I can thank this role for bringing me closer to its small town setting of River City, Iowa, falling in love with Meredith Wilson’s timeless piece, and leading me to the full-circle moment where I’d see my favorite theater actress, Sutton Foster, and meet Hugh Jackman in the Broadway revival of the same show.

— Staff writer Makayla I. Gathers can be reached at

Peppermint Patty from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”

When I was eight years old, I went to music camp. If you know me, this is entirely unsurprising; after all, I was one of those nerds who stayed indoors all summer and didn’t know how to ride a bike until I turned ten. The camp included a production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and I was cast as Peppermint Patty. I’d never acted before, but as I confessed my undying love to the 14-year-old boy cast as Charlie Brown, I was convinced I was born for the stage. To be fair, though, not much acting was required on my part: I’d been crushing on him since orientation. I don’t think anyone thought the show was any good — not even our parents — but there was truly something indescribable about that golden summer full of harps, harmonies, and “Happiness.”

— Kiesse K. Nanor

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