Making Magic Happen
by Jane Kendall Photography (top) by Gracie Auld
When Michelle McElroy relocated to Hilton Head Island seven years ago for a Social Studies teaching position at Hilton Head Christian Academy, little did she realize this was the perfect place for incubating her dream job. Michelle began her journey into the theater world as a hobby while she was in high school and college. First she began working with crews. She had a few minor parts in plays. Her first major role in high school was in Arsenic and Old Lace, and she vividly recalls her stage fright. During that time she and her dad performed in several community theater productions together. After graduation, wherever she taught, Michelle eagerly volunteered to assist with the school’s drama clubs. In her wildest dreams, she never imagined she would someday be directing huge shows. When she arrived at HHCA, Michelle first helped with middle school productions. She was soon put in charge of the middle school theater program and eventually assumed the role of director of the theater department, which has grown immensely under her guidance.
In her free time Michelle attends plays in the community, where her students are performing to cheer them on and gain new ideas. As a result, she has created an amazing network of theater professionals, who are always eager to help her. With the assistance of these talented local musicians, choreographers, set designers and stage lighting technicians, Michelle stokes her creative juices to produce some outstanding plays.
She notes there are endless ways to express your creativity in theater, ranging from marketing to photography to designing props, sets, lighting, choreography and costumes. Cassandra Mauer, one of her protégés, said, “Recently, I was lucky enough work on the production team of Ms. McElroy’s Tarzan: The Musical. I witnessed the creation of her vision in a small gymnatorium develop into a full-scale production on stage. I saw all of the factors and obstacles Ms. McElroy encountered… how she was able to uniquely adapt to these challenges to put on an incredibly beautiful show. Ms. McElroy’s approach to creating a production taught me wonders about how to overcome difficult circumstances, as well as the amount of dedicated efforts that truly go into remarkable productions.”
Michelle is grateful for the talented parents, teachers and volunteers from the community who step forward to assist her. Michelle’s greatest thrill is to see a reluctant student take that first step on stage and fall in love with theater. Once they get that first taste of being in front of an audience, most of them are hooked. Some of the major shows Michelle has produced include Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Annual trips with students to see plays in New York City, attend workshops and having fun at Disney World are the highlights of each year.
Finding one’s life purpose can be elusive. For Michelle, there is no doubt she is in the right place and using her God-given talents to make a difference in other people’s lives. She fosters an environment of inclusion for her students, encouraging them to support and build each other up.
“I have had the privilege of seeing Ms. McElroy unleash her creativity in the most inspiring ways. Her genius amazes me, and I can confidently say I would not be the person I am today without her,” said Olivia Williams, a recent HHCA graduate, who plans on pursuing a degree in theater arts.
“The lessons and skills they learn on the stage can be taken out into the world and applied to all other aspects of their lives,” said Michelle. “I find it thrilling to help kids discover something they love and to help them excel at it.”
Greatest Supporter: Her dad, Steve McElroy.
Greatest New Opportunity: Directing Little Women at May River Theatre this summer. Her dad will play the role of Mr. Laurence.
Greatest Fulfillment: Having the opportunity to ignite creativity in her students.
Her motto: “If you’re going to do something, do it with excellence, to the best of your ability. It’s not worth doing unless you’re going to go all out.”