The Shelby High School Theatre Department has a legacy of excellence reaching back more than 50 years. In that time, many directors have come through this building teaching drama and technical theatre while producing memorable shows.
The directors of the theatre department:
Kerry Maher, Kathie Burgin
Kathie Burgin and Steve Padgett
Steve Padgett and Jenny Gordon
Jenny Gordon and Melissa Scott
Dan Treharne and Cole Hamrick
Dan Treharne and Rebecca Hougas
Countless students have performed on the stage of Malcolm Brown Auditorium and have gone on to successful careers in their chosen field. As one alumni put it: “For me, Malcolm Brown Auditorium is a magical place. It has shaped and transformed lives….” Two notable alumni are Mark Cabaniss and Elizabeth Williams Taylor. Both attended Shelby High School as rising juniors when the auditorium was dedicated on August 21, 1976. Mark is President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, an international music publishing and recording company in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also a Dove Award-winning producer and songwriter, with musicals and songs performed around the world. Elizabeth has graced the stage nationally and internationally in Opera, Pops, and Classical concerts, on Broadway and television. She is a former Miss North Carolina and also enjoys acting in film, commercials, and print. She resides in Durham with her husband, Bo.
In 1980, it was decided that Shelby High School would produce the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Oklahoma.” This was Malcolm Brown’s all-time favorite musical. This was so well received that the cast was invited to the North Carolina State’s Superintendents’ Convention in Wilmington, NC, the following summer.
In 1986, the theatre department chartered International Thespian Society (ITS) Troupe #1727. This provided an organization to recognize excellence in theatre arts. The creation of ITS Troupe #1727 signaled the importance of theatre arts to the students and faculty of Shelby High School. The troupe went inactive after 1991 until it was reactivated in 2018 with over 35 new members.
In 1990, Kathie Burgin had a vision to create a Children’s Workshop Theater during the summer vacation months. She was looking for a Children’s Theater opportunity for her daughter, Quinn. The closest Children’s Theater was located in Charlotte. Many of the students you have seen on this stage today started in the children’s theater tradition. Now named in her memory, the Kathie Burgin Children’s Workshop Theater is the 2nd longest running children’s theater in North Carolina.
In addition to staging memorable musicals, Shelby High School Theatre is known for its non-musical productions. The program has consistently filled this facility with high-quality shows or student-directed one-acts each spring. The program also regularly participated in the North Carolina Theatre Conference High School Play Festival. Over the years, Shelby High School often won at the Regional Play Festival and moved on to the State Play Festival. In 1997, under the direction of Kathie Burgin and Steve Padgett, Shelby High School won the State High School Play Festival for the first time with a show that had been a hit as a spring production the year before, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" by Neil Simon With that win, Shelby High School represented the entire state of North Carolina at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, or SETC, High School Festival in Birmingham, AL. In 2006, the bar was further raised as Shelby High Theatre won the State High School Play Festival again, this time with an original play, and took an original piece by Kathie Burgin and Steve Padgett, "Fried Pies: The Tawdry Tale of Mitzi Massingill," to the SETC High School Festival in Atlanta, GA. Most recently, Shelby High School Theatre won the State High School Play Festival in 2009 and represented North Carolina in Lexington, KY with "Lonestar" by James McLure.