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Junior Natalie Shea will perform in “Next to Normal” during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. Submitted photo

The Packer Weekly: Shea travels to Scottish art festival

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Many students look for an opportunity to go overseas and visit a new country. For junior Natalie Shea, her trip of a lifetime was achieved with a role in the rock musical “Next to Normal.” Shea auditioned for the musical, which is about a mother who struggles with a bipolar disorder and the illness soon wears on her family.

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“I was a little nervous right before I went [for the audition],” Shea said. “Mainly what my purpose was in doing this audition was to do it for fun.”

Shea didn’t know that the audition she was doing to gain experience led her into a role that mimicked the same name. She would play Natalie Goodman in “Next to Normal” for the prestigious Fargo-based theater program Act-Up. “I got the call at like 11:30 at night,” Shea said. “I sat up that whole night thinking ‘This is the best, I get to play a character with my own name.’”

Along with performing “Next to Normal” in Fargo, Shea and the cast will be attending the world renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival Aug. 1-25 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival. The festival holds genres such as theater, music, dance, opera and much more.

“This festival is like the biggest one in the world so I think that this is awesome for Natalie,” High School Theater Director Adam Pankow said.

Stephanie Shea, Natalie’s mother, is ecstatic for Natalie to go to Scotland, but at the same time has different emotions.

“There are emotions that pop up that are different each time I think of this,” Stephanie said. “What overrides these emotions is that this is such an incredible opportunity at a time in her life where she is soon to be going to college and forming ideas on what she wants to do with her life.”

Natalie thinks going to Scotland to perform in the Fringe festival will not only open her eyes to a new culture, but also introduce her to other performances and meet directors.

“It is an extremely unique and incredible opportunity to get my name out there, let alone in a foreign country,” Shea said. “I mean, who doesn’t want to go out and see the world.”

Pankow feels that this opportunity shows just how determined and passionate Natalie is about theater.

“I know that she was up against a lot of people with a ton more experience than her,” Pankow said. “She was able to cut through that pack and to be with a different group of artists, and director. It really speaks volume that through all these people that are more experienced than her she was able to cut through it.”

In the end, being part of the cast of “Next to Normal” and performing in the Fringe Festival will help put Natalie’s dream in the fast lane to have theater as a career.

“Natalie herself told me that she believes her life will forever change from this experience,” Stephanie said. “She has a strong desire to make performing her life’s work, and I know she will make the most of this opportunity.”

(The Packer Weekly is an ongoing column authored by journalism students at West Fargo High School with the intent of providing awareness about and insight into a variety of school-related topics and activities. For additional information, visit westfargopacker.org.)

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