Shelley Belgard (Phoenix Marie the Sheriff) is a 45-year-old actor from Houston, TX, but now makes her home in Rockville, MD with her husband Bill. Shelley began acting in high school and has been a member of ArtStream since its founding. Shelley’s past experiences include Imagination Stage (formerly Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts), Peter Pan, Jesus Christ Superstar at American University, and Midsummer’s Night’s Dream at the Shakespeare Theater. Shelley works in the mail room at the American Gastroenterology Association. Shelley also enjoys karate, Special Olympics track and field, and Special Olympics bowling! ArtStream interviewed Shelley on April 20th, 2019.
You can see Shelley perform in “Somewhere in Showtime” on May 3-5 and 9-11 at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington. For tickets and more information visit our See A Show page.
AS: How long have you been acting with Art Stream?
SB: Several years.
AS: How did you hear about it?
SB: I started in ArtStream classes, then I tried the ArtStream Theatre Company. I have friends in the company, it just makes it more like home vs. a class. More like a secondary home vs. “oh I’m in a class, I’m bored.”
AS: What’s the play like that you’re doing now? What part do you play?
SB: It’s a time travel play. I’m a sheriff in the wild west in the 1890s and I get to arrest one of our friends and I say, “I am keeping my eye on you” and we end up going to prehistoric times. It’s a whole lot of fun, a whole lot of crazy. Some of our friends go to the Globe Theatre – it’s fun and fast paced. Some of us have more than one part. We do a lot of singing, dancing, and negotiating with the time traveler. We stand our ground in our own period. I’m sheriff in the 1890s and Shakespeare and his friends come over and then I threaten them “I am keeping my eye on you” and I follow them. Being in the 19th century and being a girl, it’s fun.
I would recommend going and seeing it!
AS: How did you come up with your character?
SB: We were discussing time travel and we were discussing time periods and I said, “what if?” and our Director thought about prehistoric times, and I thought I would like to be the sheriff. When I was growing up in Texas, we grew up not too far from a dude ranch, so it felt like second nature. You feel it. It’s a part of you. I get to wear red cowgirl boots in this play and I’m standing in a semi-threatening stance and lowering my glasses to make it look like the 1890s. I have a few other ideas.
Our Music Director gave us some songs we all have together. Mostly we sing in a group – one we do together is about “old tale, new tricks.” How tall of a tale and do you really believe this? And we have background music that goes to the time period. The music tells you where you are. But there is no prehistoric era music.
AS: Why do you enjoy acting with Art Stream? What was your favorite role?
SB: I have a lot of friends in there I’ve known since Jr. high or high school, and a lot of our friends are in both companies. It’s really, really fun because you can meet up with them at any time, and go and unwind, even if you are not in that cast, they can always help you.
I met my husband Bill in a teen social club for people with and without disabilities. And our friends, his counselors introduced us, and we’ve been friends since forever. We cheer for each other on stage. He tells me when I do my show, he’s there. When he does his show, I’m there. We also do Special Olympics – I race 1,500, 3,000, 4×1 relay, 200 and 300 and the broad shot and the shot put, and the softball throw and the basketball skills. I alternate quite a bit I don’t like getting stuck in just one sport.
AS: Last year you played a villain, this year you are playing a sheriff, how is to switch from evil to good?
SB: When I played Mama Giovanni – a villain – she was unique to say the least! One of my favorite characters, one of my most favorite. She was kind and generous to her husband and her daughters and then mean to the director. And you had to put on two hats really, really quickly. Be mama and be stern. You had to be nice, but don’t be nice to the director.
AS: What would you say to someone who wants to know about ArtStream?
SB: Go for it! If you feel like you can, do it. If you feel like you can’t, take a breather, take a walk, put a song in your head, and go for it. I usually start singing in my head and it quells all the nervousness.
AS: Do you get nervous on stage?
SB: I get nervous sometimes in between sets and where I’m supposed to go backstage (my sense of direction is not good) I keep hoping I’m not going to fall. If you’re passionate enough, if you can find any music to help you understand your character, use that for a breather and if you can’t, go for a character walk, do something to make your character more alive, not just words on a page.
Aside from being Mama Giovanni, I like this year’s character which is unique to say the least. I’ve never played a sheriff before, and the last time I played a cowgirl it was in Imagination Stage. I was one of 6 cousins trying to run a talent agency in the wild west. I wore the red cowgirl boots then, too. The boots still fit. Just a different venue.