Hometown Artist: Demonstrating community commitment through the visual or performing arts.
Roseann Sheridan knows theater can change lives. It changed hers.
"When I was young, theater saved my life. I learned to accept myself and others, and I got to bring something to life," she says.
Now, as artistic director of Children's Theater of Madison, Sheridan watches others make these discoveries. Merging reality and fantasy onstage creates magic, the kind that can bring a shy kid out of her shell or help a bully put himself in the shoes of his victim. These aren't just skills for the stage; they're valuable tools at school, work and beyond.
The other day Sheridan received a letter from the parents of a 20-year-old alum who landed an internship with Ralph Lauren. The poise and confidence the young woman's theater training provided were essential in the competition for the gig. One of her presentations was so moving that it brought tears to the eyes of Lauren's brother. Before long, the famous designer promised her a job. Letters like these remind Sheridan that she does important work, even when the going gets tough.
Of course, Sheridan likes big challenges. Each season, CTM mounts a production that flouts stereotypes about youth theater. Last year's And Then They Came for Me introduced young viewers to a topic most children's theater companies wouldn't touch: the Holocaust. CTM's production sparked a community conversation about persecution. Video testimonials from Holocaust survivors accompanied a live performance.
But the simplest epiphanies are often the most enjoyable to watch. Sheridan says CTM's characters feel more real than those on TV. This leads to some amazing reactions.
"With TV, you don't have the immediacy of someone walking down the aisle next to you. The spider from Charlotte's Web is real to kids seeing the show, and they can meet her. They're drawn into the story in a magical way."