Childhood dream come true: Elon University graduate a part of ‘Les Mis’ tour

By Rachel Teseneer
Times-News correspondent


Matt Shingledecker, an Elon University graduate, stars as Enjolras in the new national tour of "Les Miserables." The show will be performed at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) starting Tuesday. [Matthew Murphy

   DURHAM — The tragic, yet utterly captivating musical “Les Miserables” is coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) starting Tuesday for shows through Jan. 4.
Matt Shingledecker, an Elon University graduate and a South Carolina native, plays the role of Enjolras, who leads the rebellion that spurs the action of the show. Teens & 20s recently interviewed Shingledecker about both his life experiences and his thoughts on the national tour of “Les Miserables.”
Teens & 20s: Were the performing arts a childhood love and how did you pursue them?
Shingledecker: It was indeed a childhood love that also grew over time. I constantly thank my lucky stars and my parents who worked very hard so that I could enjoy the myriad of educational opportunities that came with attending Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, S.C., my hometown, for 12 formative years, as well as the numerous musical and/or theatrical extracurricular activities outside of school that my Mom drove me to practically every day. Simply learning that I could pursue musical theater in college was enough for me.
Teens & 20s: What’s it like coming back to the Carolinas?
Shingledecker: It’s always great to return to the Carolinas because it’s easy for family and old friends to visit and see what I’ve been working on. Durham is unique because it’s such a joy to meet current students who aspire to do exactly what I’m doing and to reminisce with past professors who were integral to my development as an artist.
Teens & 20s: What helped you choose to study at Elon?
Shingledecker: The beautiful campus, the proximity to my hometown, the program’s reputation, a scholarship, etc. all played a role in ultimately choosing Elon, but one particular moment stands out in my mind. The night I auditioned for the program, I saw the play “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder” in the McCrary Black Box Theatre, and I remember thinking, this is some of the best acting I’ve ever seen in my life. I want to learn how to do that.
Teens & 20s: What has it been like performing in “Les Mis”?
Shingledecker: A childhood dream come true.
Teens & 20s: What are the best parts and the hardest parts of being a performer and of touring?
Shingledecker: The best part is the opportunity to travel while working. As this is my third tour in about a decade, to see the gradual change and development of the country as a whole is very interesting to me.
Teens & 20s: Describe your character.
Shingledecker: I play Enjolras, a Parisian and the leader of the June rebellion of 1832, a highly intelligent, single-minded, pragmatic, courageous, passionate, idealist and futurist whose main cause is the right of education for all, something that many of us take for granted today. An educated electorate is paramount to any successful republic. He is the singular driving force behind a solid half of the show.
Teens & 20s: Do you relate to your character in any way?
Shingledecker: I very much relate to his idealism and leadership aspirations. However, as an actor who is constantly exploring as many sides of “the truth” as I possibly can, I also struggle with idealism. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t always end well.
Teens & 20s: Do you have any ways you get into character or in the right mindset of the show that you’d like to share?
Shingledecker: There is a photograph, one of the first photographs in recorded history in fact, of one of the barricades. I am immediately transported there every time I look at it. It is one of the first things I unpack in every new dressing room.
Teens & 20s: What would you say the message of the show is?
 Shingledecker: Most good art doesn’t have a singular message as most good artists will tell you and an epic story like “Les Mis” is no exception. Come see it for yourself, and examine how you feel before, during, and after. I can almost guarantee that it will have quite an impact.
Teens & 20s: What should audiences expect when they come to see the show?
Shingledecker: An epic sonic and visual experience like nothing else you’ve ever seen.
Teens & 20s: Is there something about the show you’re particularly excited about?
Shingledecker: To share this timeless classic with a new generation of young people throughout North America.

Rachel Teseneer is a sophomore at North Carolina State University and a Teens & 20s writer.

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