My name is Lauren Dolen and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share my stories and beautiful memories about the talented friends and forever family I have made through being apart of Spotlight Acting School. It has been a true blessing to share that part of my life with each and everyone one of you. I love you all and I hope you live Mrs. Bettler’s dream to “do something creative everyday!”
Aside from my acting, I have always been a bit of a perfectionist. A lot of my perfectionistic characteristics were associated with school. I remember at a young age being afraid of not being able to open my milk cartons at lunch or not being able to learn to tie my shoes. Over time, this anxiety manifested itself into fears of not making perfect grades or not being seen as a good student by my teachers. When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This was a very difficult time in my life and I did not understand why this was happening to me. I remember having overwhelming bursts of panic and running out of the classroom to hysterically cry in the bathroom. My anxiety got so bad that I didn’t want to go to school anymore and became very depressed. It was around this time of my life that Mrs. Bettler reached out to me and I began to get involved in more and more plays with the high school students. From my involvement, I began to notice a major transformation in myself. I was no longer the shy, introverted little girl. Being in plays allowed me to gain new confidence in myself and my abilities. This confidence helped me to cope with my anxiety and learn that no one is perfect. That greatest thing about the theatre was the fact that I could be whoever I wanted and no one would ever know or care if I made a mistake. Theatre for me became my release for life’s stressors. Acting was my outlet for combating anxiety.
A few years later, Mrs. Bettler came to me with an idea. She had a dream of starting an acting school where she could teach young children about the theater. With that being said, I have been apart of Spotlight Acting School since it’s official opening in 2008. I was one of the very first students of Spotlight back when Mrs. Bettler first had her vision of starting an acting school. We did not do any plays because there were so few of us at first so our first projects were to do monologues for audiences around Madison County.
As Spotlight began to expand, I met more and more rising stars. I made so many friends, some of which I still talk to on a regular basis. As we did more plays, we got closer. Practices no longer seemed like work to me. It was more like a time for me to be with my best friends and release my worries and fears. I remember sitting at home and crying after the final show of “Aladdin” thinking about all of the fun and friends I had made. Spotlight has allowed me to make some very special bonds with people that I will never forget.
As I went into high school, Mrs. Bettler became a huge part of my life. I had almost every class with her during the day so we spent a lot of time together. She was my drama teacher, my French teacher, and my Latin teacher. However, I prefer not to think of her as just my teacher, but as my mentor, my friend, and my “third grandmother”. I remember she would always love to take me out for ice cream after a long day of working. It was during these times that I learned so much about her, about her life, and how much she loved me and all of the children she got to work with. During the times where I had bad flare-ups with my anxiety or I had family trials, she was always there to listen to me and comfort me. I remember sitting with her for hours talking about things that I was dealing with and how she always encouraged me to turn to theatre during my times of sorrow. Because of her I was able to get through some of the hardest moments in my life and use the sadness I was feeling to create a character that brought joy to others.
Being involved with high school theatre and Spotlight has allowed me to be apart of over 100 productions both big and small. Some of my most memorable plays were “Aladdin” in 2008 when I played the Genie, “Into the Woods” in 2009 when I played Jack and the Beanstalk, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream-coat” in 2009 when I played 1 of the 12 sons of Jacob and “The Music Man” in 2012. As I racked up more and more plays, I became known as the funny girl. Mrs. Bettler would always assign me parts that were comical because she knew I loved to let loose and make people laugh. It was always my main goal when doing a show to see how many laughs in could conjure up before the play was over. A lot of the satisfaction I got from the theatre was meeting the people I performed for and seeing how happy I made them after they watched my performance. It was so enlightening to know that I could make someone else’s day better by putting on a good show.
As I neared the age of 18, I knew my time at Spotlight was coming to a close. However, my passion for the theatre still burned bright. I knew I was going to be going off to college and doing new and exciting things with my life and would not have as much time to devote to plays as I once did. But I can assure each and everyone of you that this was not a “goodbye” but just a “see you soon”.
Since I have been involved in Spotlight, I have enrolled in college at EKU and discovered my newfound love for science and medicine. I am currently a junior in college and I hope to graduate in 3 semesters with a Bachelor Degree in Medical Laboratory Science. Upon graduating EKU I hope to attend UK and receive a master’s in Microbiology. My dream job is to work for the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia and save hundreds of lives trying to find cures for deadly bacterial and viral epidemics.
While I have decided to choose another direction with my life that is different from theater, acting is still a huge part of me. The skills and knowledge I have learned from my many years of being with Spotlight have helped me in every aspect of my life. I am so grateful to have found an outlet that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone when I was younger and cope with my anxiety when times were difficult. Acting has truly made a difference in my attitude, my work ethic, my personality, and my life overall. I would not be the person I am today without the opportunity of Spotlight Acting School and the people such as Mrs. Hembree, Ms.Sarah, Ms.Brandi, and last but certainly not least Mrs. Bettler. I love all of you and I hope that Spotlight continues on in Mrs. Bettler’s memory. I hope that thousands more children will get the opportunity to be apart of this wonderful school and be able to overcome obstacles just like I did. I thank God everyday for Spotlight Acting School and how it has changed my life for the better.