Not even a hospital bed can keep Megan Shinnick ’16 away from theater. Peers and classmates who know Shinnick as a funny, loud, and outgoing actress and singer, might be shocked to learn that she has struggled with depression since last spring.
Shinnick has taken on multiple roles both in acting and outside of it. She played a gangster in the fall musical The Drowsy Chaperone. She is a member of the Improv Troupe as well as an actress in the winter One Act plays. Additionally, Shinnick sings in Inchordination A Cappella as well as school chorus.
Inchordination has a “family feel,” as Shinnick described it, adding the group often spends time laughing and joking, but they also know when to get to work. Fellow group member Lexie Lehmann ’16 said “Megan is always in the center of that [family atmosphere], fueling the laughter and putting a smile on everyone’s face. It’s almost like she brings everyone together. Sometimes we’ll be learning parts individually, and she’ll make a joke, and the whole group starts laughing together.”
With a vast repertoire of roles, Shinnick is no stranger to the stage. In addition to her role in The Drowsy Chaperone, she has played Shel in Epic Proportions, Kiki in Legally Blonde, the guard in Museum, and many others. However, Shinnick was not seriously involved in theater until her freshman year. In fact, Shinnick admits to even having had stage fright in elementary school.
Shinnick accredits her interest and success in theater to an entrepreneurship class she began to take through Babson College in sixth grade. As a part of the class, Shinnick created a small business that forced her to go out of her comfort zone to ask people for loans. “Entrepreneurship and theater really went hand in hand,” said Shinnick. “Both were teaching me ways to present things.”
Daquan Oliver, Shinnick’s mentor in the program, reflected Shinnick’s sentiment that theater has assisted her as an entrepreneur and vice versa. He said “You can definitely tell Megan is an actress through her public speaking ability…In my mind, her experience in the arts has definitely structured her as an entrepreneur.”
As Shinnick continued with entrepreneurship she created a non-profit organization against stereotyping, which she then expanded into another non-profit, Uni. Through Uni Shinnick sold merchandize such as water bottles, and wrist bands and donated the proceeds to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. With these items came a handwritten note from a victim of bullying thanking customers for supporting their cause. Shinnick additionally spread awareness through social media and YouTube videos. She has paused work on Uni to start a new organization, which she hopes will raise awareness about depression and help provide funding for schools to help students deal with pressure.
Depression is a subject close to Shinnick’s heart, after her battle with the mental illness for over 6 months that resulted in a week-long stay in the hospital this fall. Shinnick is a part of the high school’s bridge program, which she said “saved [her and the other bridge participants’ lives] because it put [their] mental health first.” Bridge allows students a place to check in and learn how to cope with depression, while also providing them emotional support. She is currently working on creating the aforementioned anti-depression non-profit to provide other students struggling with depression whose schools may not have programs like bridge with the support and relief they need. Shinnick feels that is important to talk about depression and spread awareness on the subject. “I don’t talk about it like I want pity,” she said. “I talk about it to reach out. If I didn’t have a solution I wouldn’t talk about it.”
On November 15, Shinnick was given the opportunity to talk about depression and her efforts to bring an end to it during TEDx Youth Speaks at Beacon Street, an independently run subsidiary of TED. TED, nicknamed for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a nonprofit designed to spread ideas through short talks that are then posted online and publicized worldwide. In her talk (which can be found here), Shinnick discussed her story of depression and the shocking rise in teen depression, her hypothesis as to why depression in adolescents has recently become so common, and what can be done to stop it. Oliver, who nominated Shinnick for the talk, said “What isn’t there about her that wouldn’t make me nominate her?” He praised her saying “already she strives to deliver impact to her community due to her own experience as an entrepreneur.”
However, for Shinnick, who was hesitant to even take on the TED talk at first, it was a long battle to end up on stage and out of the hospital. “Theater was the one thing that made me want to leave the hospital,” she said, adding that she was emailing acting teacher Stephen Wrobleski from her hospital bed. She also praised her friends she made through the performing arts. “There was so much support in the theater community, which was really helpful,” she said. Lehmann also added “I’m so inspired by everything she’s doing to make change in her life and in the lives of others. Not many teenagers can say that they’ve started two non-profit organizations on top of going to school and performing in shows and having a social life. I am so proud of her, and I’m incredibly lucky to have a friend like her.”
Shinnick hopes to carry on her love for theater throughout and beyond college, except she said she always surprises people when she says she wants to become an English teacher. Shinnick envisions herself having a double major in English and theater so she can hopefully teach both as an adult. She also added she wants to continue her work with nonprofits. While she says she knows she could go to Babson and pursue a career as an entrepreneur, she has learned “it’s most important to follow what you’re passionate about”, which is exactly what Megan Shinnick plans to do.
(Olivia Gieger ’17, Arts Editor)