Supporting personal growth at Matthews Opera House

Apr 15, 2024 | Community Stories, Grant Stories

Joanna Mechaley enjoys what many consider to be their number one fear: public speaking. As a former actress turned Marketing Manager at Matthews Opera House, Mechaley credits her comfort before an audience to years in the spotlight. 

However, it’s hard to feel confident if the stage lights fail. Mechaley recalls how that happened once during a performance at Matthews Opera House. To ensure that critical technology is reliable, the Community Foundation directed a Capacity Building Grant to the Opera House in 2023.  

This funding streamlines productions, allowing performers to focus on their personal and professional growth. For many, this means honing their social skills. Acting taught Mechaley the art of active listening and how to respond to subtle cues, both verbally and with her body language.  

“Theater teaches you how to overcome your insecurities,” she said. “If you’re feeling a little on the spot, you learn some adapting coping skills to put on that face and get through a period of time.”  

Cast members also learn how to form strong friendships. When rehearsals start, it’s common to see kids sitting alone, Mechaley said. But later, “once you get them reading through scenes, you see a comfort beginning to build. They are having fun with each other, finding people like themselves.”   

Mechaley delights in watching the personal growth of other performers. It all comes together at the end of a show, when the ensemble stands confidently in the spotlight, receiving applause from their family and friends.