How theater musicals helped me overcome shyness

The author as Herb the class clown in 'Godspell'

The author as Herb the class clown in ‘Godspell’

By John Sapida

I started performing in musicals in the 7th grade. As a shy immigrant boy of about 12 or 13 years old, it was hard for me to make friends and talk to people. I was having a serious case of culture shock!

Over the years, I stepped out of my shell when I began joining musical theater. I made friends in my theater group in school. As I played a variety of roles – Chip Tolentino in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Major Metcalf in Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” and Jesus in “Godspell” — my circle of friends began to grow. I gained more confidence in myself as a young American.

Every time I take the stage, I am engulfed with the feeling of finding and enjoying the spotlight. Furthermore, enjoying the company of like-minded people who find pleasure in performing just as much as I do has helped me become more social.

Being in theater allows me to, even for a couple of hours, be someone else and step out of my comfort zone. Because of theater I have learned how to express myself through art and music.

Some 10 years later, and more than 15 productions since the 7th grade, I am still performing. I enjoy performing with various community productions, but if Broadway ever called my name, I will surely answer.

Playing Major Metcalf in Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, ‘The Mousetrap’

Playing Major Metcalf in Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, ‘The Mousetrap’

The process of putting together a musical production is exciting, yet very challenging. It starts with casting and auditions, to hours of rehearsals, and then all of the technical aspects to put together a production. It seems like a short process, but every brick by brick is a laborious and meticulous production. For example, the rehearsal puts together character development, memorizing lines and dialogue, and learning music and lyrics, remembering blocking and etc.

While it may seem like a grueling process, what makes it fun for me is and a lot of other actors is seeing the characters we develop come to life. When I put on my character’s costume for the first time, it is when I know that all of the work is starting to pay off. There is nothing more exhilarating than that split-second between the intro music and the curtain opening.

Here, he is Chip Tolentino in “Spelling Bee”

Here, he is Chip Tolentino in “Spelling Bee”

Since February, I have been working on the production “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” with Per4ming heARTS Theater Company in Ramsey, New Jersey as an actor. Per4ming heARTS serves the community by donating a portion of the proceeds from theater receipts to a national or local charity. “Spelling Bee,” for example, will benefit Teach for America fellows. Teach for America is a non-profit organization that enlists teachers in low-income communities.

“Spelling Bee” is the story of six spellers coming from different family backgrounds. While participating in competitions, the lives of the spellers are revealed to the audience. What sets the show apart will be audience participation. At every performance, four lucky audience members, chosen by a lottery before the show begins, will be asked to participate in the competition as well.

Per4ming heARTS Theater Company proudly presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the First Presbyterian Church of Ramsey (15 Shuart Lane in Ramsey, New Jersey) from May 1st to May 3rd. For more information, visit

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