WB: “Strong, scrappy, spunky, bursting with energy.” “Baldwin lights up the stage with her smile and captivates the audience with her voice.” These are just some of the many praises given to Maddie Shea Baldwin for her performance as Maria in The Sound of Music. I was the drummer/percussionist for the production, which was a new experience for me. I had done a few operas, but this was a high-level production of an old classic, with a visionary creative team and many performers coming straight from Broadway. Despite my inexperience, the whole cast was always incredibly nice to me, and getting to watch them all perform around 50 shows was a privilege. Maddie was the highlight of every one of those shows. She never missed a single one and delivered incredible acting, beautiful vocals, and heart-wrenching emotion each time she was on stage. I don’t know Maddie personally, only professionally through that musical, but the strength it took to deliver so consistently both technically and emotionally was very intriguing to me when considering who to ask to write on this blog. I think her performance speaks highly of what kind of person she is, someone whose personality is humble and Christ-centric, while her social media presence is delightful and very cat-centric. I’m thrilled that she accepted the invitation to write, and I’m excited to read from her perspective.
Your Inner Child
When William asked me to contribute a piece to his blog, I wasn’t sure what to write. I went back and forth but there has been something on my heart lately. It stuck with me because I just finished playing Maria in a production of The Sound of Music at Asolo Repertory Theatre with the most incredible cast, crew, musicians, and creative team. Even though I’ve been in the theater business for years, that show—and that group of people—surpassed anything I ever experienced as a performer. I learned more than you can imagine in the three months spent working on this project, there is a particular takeaway from the show that I want to share.
Let me preface this with a bit of honesty. It is incredibly difficult for me to share my insecurities. Like most people, I want it to look like I’ve always got everything figured out. But recently I’ve found that sharing my truth has countless benefits. It has brought me so much growth and has helped me connect and relate to so many people in my life. One of those big insecurities that has affected me over the years started way back in middle school. When I was thirteen, I told myself I couldn’t sing classical music. I have absolutely no idea where this idea came from. It may have been a passing comment by a teacher. It may have been that I was never cast as a lead in any of my community theatre productions. Typically, my best friend would book Alice in Alice in Wonderland and I would get cast as a flower.
This limitation that I created caused insecurities as far back as middle school and it stuck with me – even when I was auditioning for college theater programs. I was told you have to be versatile, you have to sing a belt song and a soprano song. Throughout every single audition, I could not silence the voice in the back of my head that said I couldn’t sing in a classical soprano voice and so I didn’t get into any musical theatre programs. All because of a made up limitation that I created. Even though I have more of a handle on my insecurities now, they do like to pop out of nowhere to wreak havoc on my life. So during my audition for The Sound of Music, that old insecurity popped in to say hello. Insane, right?
Let’s take it back to a time in our lives when we weren’t so judgmental. Do you have any favorite memories as a child? I remember when I was in preschool I used to wear my princess dress to school. I climbed up the jungle gym and sang “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, paying no attention to my speech impediment. Did I think about how I shouldn’t sing it because I couldn’t enunciate the words? Heck no. My other favorite memory is singing “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin in my first talent show when I was five years old. I even held auditions for some bird back up dancers on my kindergarten playground but my mom made me fire them, saying it was “a bit much.” All these stories are leading somewhere, I promise.
Playing Maria in The Sound of Music brought me so many gifts. But the biggest gift of all was the realization that Maria, despite her circumstances, never lost her childlike heart. She follows it wherever it leads her. She has zero limitations, no boundaries. She sings in the mountains without her shoes, not caring if she steps on rocks or trips over a branch. She doesn’t worry about being too loud. She doesn’t care what clothes she wears. She doesn’t judge herself when she lacks confidence, or waste time finding all the reasons she should lack it. She sings about why she SHOULD have confidence in herself. She runs towards the unknown with a smile and a full heart. Yes, we get to see her grow up in front of our eyes. She learns what love is, she becomes an incredible mother. But my favorite part about her, hands down, is that she is a child at heart. I think that is something we can all learn from Maria and I think it is a huge part of why so many have been in love with this story so long. Maybe if we all worked harder to be like her we would let go of the judgements and limits we put on ourselves and live our lives to the fullest. I know the importance of a childlike faith. As a Christian, the Bible tells us the importance of it constantly: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4). I know this, I grew up knowing this. But sometimes I need a reminder to get me back on track. I call them God kisses, and being a part of a show like The Sound of Music was a huge one.
Honesty, again. Connecting with my inner child was probably one of the most freeing experiences I’ve ever had. But it wasn’t something I did without help. In addition to working with a team of incredibly kind-hearted humans, the twelve kids I had the pleasure of working with during the show really opened my eyes and helped me to remember. The first week of rehearsal we were practicing the song “The Lonely Goatherd” and throwing pillows, experimenting. The kids were hysterically laughing. I came in one day nervous about carrying classical vocals while running around. Our incredible director (who led us all by example by pouring out his direction and creativity directly from his heart) said that the number was simply about having fun and there should be zero judgement on yourself. And how could there be? With six kids throwing pillows at your face. During our breaks they’d blurt out the funniest things. On Halloween, our Gretl walked into rehearsal with full zombie makeup that she kept on for the entire seven hour rehearsal. If anyone missed a note, they wouldn’t give it a second thought. The kids surrounded me with unconditional love, showered me in hugs, made me drawings and gifts and took selfies on my phone while I wasn’t looking. Daily I would ask myself: “how can I be more like them?”. I tried to pour that same childlike wonder into my performance as Maria. As I worked on bringing that to life, I realized I needed SO much more of it in my own life.
Simply put, this show was a gift. Sometimes the universe brings you things and people that remind you of the simplest, and most important, truths. I hope everyone can take time once in a while to be adventurous, to be confident, to stop judging every move you make, to laugh at yourself, to be a kid again, and to rid yourself of those inner demons that don’t serve you. Just be.