Shaw Shurley. Actor, Singer, Costume Designer, Director, Fight Choreographer, Special Effects Artist, Script Writer, and Producer. If you haven’t had the honor of meeting this 12 year old then you are really missing out. In only 6th grade, Shaw has already been devoting much of his time to the arts inte the variety of ways.
Shaw is starring in the title role of Oliver! here at Greenville Theatre, but he is no stranger to the stage or the work that comes with a lead role such as this. Shaw started doing theatre when he was in the 1st grade.
“When I was younger I would do a lot of camps at the South Carolina Children's Theatre and summer camps at other places and I really liked doing it. Eventually, my dad convinced me to audition for a show, I got in, and just kept on liking it.” Shaw said. Curious about the camps I asked Shaw how he thought they benefited him.
“I liked how the teachers were nice and how at the end of the class you would do a mini show. It was a very welcoming environment and a good way to start.” Shaw said.
Shaw’s first show was The Wizard of Oz playing a Lollypop Guild Munchkin. This show was particularly special, because not only did he have a lot of friends in the cast, but both his father and sister were in the production as well. It was the start of Shaw’s theatre career performing with friends and family alike.
“I started early so I think I just got used to it. It was a time when I was learning manners and how to take direction. It just became normal for me.” Shaw said.
“He is generally a rule follower.” His father Neil Shurley chimed in, and this could not be more true. As an actor having worked alongside Shaw for now a third production I have noted his maturity and ability to take direction that is well beyond his years.
The first show that Shaw was a part of here at Greenville Theatre was Ragtime.
“Ragtime was probably one of my favorite shows I have ever done. When I started working at this theatre I thought ‘This is really good, I like it.’ I also had a lot of friends in that cast and then I met more people and made more friends. Plus this show was so meaningful and deep.” In the midst of this conversation I drew attention to the large lobby photo of Shaw’s character from Ragtime. I asked him how he felt about having his picture hanging in our lobby. He assured me that it was beyond cool. Of course, I think so too.
“It was all kind of an accident how he ended up with the role of Little Boy in Ragtime. We had told him not to count out every role and opportunity that could happen.” Shaw’s father Neil said.
“I had gone to the audition which was for both Ragtime and Beauty and the Beast really hoping to be Chip in Beauty and the Beast, but I ended up getting cast in both of them." Each of these roles required something very different from Shaw both mentally and physically. Both widely successful at the theatre they each required something very different from him as a performer. In Ragtime we saw Shaw running up and down stairs and moving all over the stage, while in Beauty and the Beast, playing a young boy turned tea cup, he was pushed around on stage in a cart by Ashleigh Stowe who played his mother, Mrs. Potts.
"Beauty and the Beast was fun and very relaxing because all I did was sit in a cart. It was definitely really fun not having to memorize my blocking.” Shaw said.
Thus this brings us to Oliver!
Oliver!“When we got the email saying they wanted me to play the first thing I remember was being really excited and jumping up and down.” Shaw said. He also told me how glad he was that this role had come along now after having had such dynamic show experiences here and throughout the Upstate.
“It’s a big role. And for most of act one I don’t leave the stage. If I had not had as much experience, this would have been hard and I probably wouldn’t have understood the role,” Shaw said. No stranger to working at the Greenville Theatre, he wants to continue to work here as much as he can. He spoke of how welcomed he feels here and what a great environment it is. But Shaw hasn’t only worked here at the Greenville Theatre but he has been seen across the Upstate at the South Carolina Children’s Theatre, Centre Stage, and the Warehouse Theatre.
“The second show I ever did was Beauty and the Beast at the South Carolina Children’s Theatre. I was in the ensemble as a dancing tea bag. Then I did Charlotte’s Web also at SCCT and I played Templeton which was my first big speaking role.” Shaw said. His father chimed in prompting him to speak to the most frustrating part of the role of Templeton.
“The mustache,” Shaw replied with a giggle. “The worst part was that the packaging said ‘made from real human hair’ and I had to wear that right under my nose! I was also not fond of the spirit gum we used to make it stick.” At the Warehouse theatre, Shaw was seen in the role of Bert in their 2017 production of All My Sons. A smaller but crucial role,
Shaw acted as the comedic relief of the drama heavy production. Both Neil and Shaw spoke to what a unique experience this was for Shaw being the only child in a cast of all adults and also not knowing anyone before starting the process. Then he made his Centre Stage debut in their 2018 production of Laughing All The Way.
“It’s a very unique show because we were learning the show while we were writing it. I learned a lot as a actor in that show.” He said. Shaw is no stranger to working on his toes. Having been on stage the night the lights when out during a performance of Ragtime, Shaw found himself doing some quick thinking.
“We had started doing the end of the show, a cappella and with no microphones. I said my first words and realized ‘This is not loud enough!’” Shaw said. He quickly adjusted his volume and began projecting his voice so he could be heard by everyone in the audience.
Acting is not the only thing that Shaw specializes in. One of the reasons that Shaw enjoyed Laughing All The Way is that he has a love of writing sketch comedy. He often works with a friend from school and they write their own sketch comedy skits with the intention of making a show someday. The sketches they work on are about 2 minutes in length and they have even started to work on some songs since his friend has the ability to play multiple instruments. In addition to acting and writing, Shaw also has a love
for singing. He has had the opportunity to do this in multiple productions and told me how much he loves singing along to his favorite musicals such as Hamilton and Newsies (and since this is the opener in our 2019-2020 season he is quite excited, as are we). To top it all off, he is interested in fight choreography, having even done some of his own stunt work in the movies he makes with his friends, including learning to flip someone over his back, safely using the dog’s bed as his crash mat. He has made movies with his friends on all sorts of topics, from The Hunger Games, to Captain America vs. Iron Man movies. In this last one he started to really work on the cinematography, showing a bullet flying through the air from the bullet’s point of view as well as Captain America blowing up in another movie. But what movie would be complete with out costumes? Well Shaw has got that element of theatre under his belt as well.
“When my dad first showed me the Marvel movies last year, I fell in love with the characters, especially Captain America. So I decided I needed a Captain America suit,” Shaw said. Having such a good relationship with the owners of the Army and Navy store downtown he has been able to have access to some pieces to add to his costume such as a helmet which he has used for his Captain America helmet. We spent quite some time scrolling through Neil’s photo gallery marveling at Shaw’s costume creations. These costumes can usually be in production between a day and a week depending on how extensive it is.
“Before he was even making these extensive costumes, he was still putting things together from a young age,” Neil added. Shaw has a real love for Marvel comics and its superheros. He even told me that he used to fight with his friend about how DC comics were superior to Marvel comics until he finally watched the movies, then realizing, as Shaw so eloquently stated, “the error of my ways.” Captain America is Shaw’s favorite, with Spiderman coming in at second place. His father had gotten Shaw a giant book of Captain America comics which he enjoys reading for long periods of time. But more than just comics, Shaw is quite the avid reader, telling me his favorite is H. G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, and that he is currently reading The Martain by Andy Weir. He also enjoys the occasional Star Wars Xbox game with his friends.
As hard as it was to steer the conversation back to Oliver! we had to get Shaw’s final thoughts on this amazing role of his. He gave some shoutouts to three people in the cast he was really excited to get the chance to work with. Nathan Oliver, who taught him how to solve a rubix cube when they grew close in Beauty and the Beast, Ashleigh Stowe, who he bonded with during Beauty and the Beast when she played his mother, and his friend Charley Ratterree who he is excited about being in a show with. I finally asked him to describe the show in one word, (and I haven’t found anyone who can disagree with his answer).
“Phenomenal,” He said.
So that’s the inside scoop on the multi-talented Shaw Shurley. We can’t imagine having a more well rounded and skilled person to be in the title role of our next show Oliver! and we also can’t wait for you to come see this all for yourself!
Stay tuned to see who we get to know next from Fagin’s gang this coming Thursday, and don’t forget tickets go on sale to the public February 11th. See you at the theatre!