Ben Onstage

Freshman Discusses Theatre Career, Excitement for Future

Playing+the+role+of+Michael+Banks%2C+freshman+Ben+McDanald+performs+during+his+eighth+grade+year+in+theatre%27s+production+of+%22Mary+Poppins.%22+McDanald+has+enjoyed+acting+and+singing+ever+since+he+was+little.+%22%5BBeing+on+stage%5D+is+exciting%2C%22+McDanald+said.+%22The+moment+before+you+start%2C+it%27s+the+worst.+You%27re+so+anxious+and+you%27re+so+nervous.+And+then+as+soon+as+the+lights+go+up+and+you+start%2C+then+it%27s+fine.+You+just+have+to+leave+everything+out+on+stage.%22

Photo courtesy of Ben McDanald

Playing the role of Michael Banks, freshman Ben McDanald performs during his eighth grade year in theatre's production of "Mary Poppins." McDanald has enjoyed acting and singing ever since he was little. "[Being on stage] is exciting," McDanald said. "The moment before you start, it's the worst. You're so anxious and you're so nervous. And then as soon as the lights go up and you start, then it's fine. You just have to leave everything out on stage."

Morgan Kasel, Reporter

The lights grow dim, and voices become whispers. The curtains part, revealing the perfect onstage set up of a modern bedroom, and the actors immediately entice the audience with the character they portray. For freshman Ben McDanald, the stage represents a place of creativity and storytelling.

McDanald has been performing and singing since elementary school and was part of many major middle school productions including “Mary Poppins” and “The Yellow Boat.” Due to his family’s enjoyment of theatre, McDanald has enjoyed performing ever since he was little. 

“[Being on stage] is exciting,” McDanald said. “The moment before you start, it’s the worst. You’re so anxious and you’re so nervous. And then as soon as the lights go up and you start, then it’s fine. You just have to leave everything out on stage.” 

This year, McDanald performed as Andy Cady in theatre’s UIL play “The Mental State.” McDanald said that he is very proud of his fellow cast members. 

“I’m proud of what we performed, and our story connected with a lot of people,” McDanald said. “I thought all around it was our best run, and most of all it was super fun.” 

While theatre did not advance in UIL, McDanald received an honorable mention for an all star cast performer. He said that he was very excited about this award, especially after all of the practice he put into playing his character.

“I was very happy and super proud to be an honorable mention,” McDanald said. “I put in a lot of work outside [of] rehearsals, and I was thrilled to receive this award. This also helps me set goals for next year’s competition.” 

In order to get into his characters, McDanald said that he studies different personality traits; this was especially helpful for his character in “The Mental State.” 

“I watched many videos about people who live with schizophrenia and I developed ticks that my character, Andy, would have such as not making eye contact, fidgeting with my hands, and constant head [and] shoulder movement,” McDanald said. “These helped me get into character.” 

While McDanald said that he was a little nervous to join the high school theatre program as a freshman, he said that everyone was very welcoming. 

“[The environment] is nice,” McDanald said. “It’s hard obviously because [I’m] a freshman, but I felt really welcomed by the upperclassmen, which I wasn’t sure how that would work out, but they were super nice to me joining. It’s a lot of great people.” 

Out of the shows he has been a part of, McDanald said that he really enjoyed “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” as well as many of his past performances in eighth grade. According to him, the time spent performing on stage can be just as emotional as the moments behind the curtain. 

“Most of the time [after] it’s frustrating because I feel like there are always things that I could have done better,” McDanald said. “But it’s always so relieving knowing that you tried hard and that you did the best you could.” 

For someone just joining theatre, McDanald said that it is important to push yourself and aim for new experiences. 

“If you are considering trying out for anything, just do it,” McDanald said. “The worst thing that happens is you don’t get in, that’s the absolute worst thing that can happen. So you might as well try out and put yourself out there. You might love it.”