Betsey Lowe Shirley

Betsey Lowe Shirley sits comfortably at the piano in the Green Room at the Princess Theatre. Along with being the operations manager, Shirley will also teach private vocal and piano lessons. Call the Princess Theatre for more information. (Sun photo by Joe Curtis)

When Wes and Lisa Lowe volunteered their daughter, Betsy, to play in “Just Scratchin’ The Surface” no one foreshadowed the timid five-year-old would become an accomplished vocalist and pianist, star in numerous productions and be the newly named Princess Theatre operations manager.

After “Just Scratchin’ The Surface” Betsy Lowe Shirley, who is married to Travis Shirley, went on to star as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” Wendy in “Peter Pan,” Louisa in “Sound of Music,” and Tzeitel in “Fiddler On The Roof” before returning to play the baker’s wife in this summer’s production of “Into The Woods.”

In “Just Scratchin’ The Surface” Shirley played the little girl who dreamed the entire story. Having not yet learned to read, Shirley learned her lines by listening to recordings made by her mother.

“I was very, very shy,” Shirley said. “When my mother told me there was going to be people watching me I said, ‘no.’ She said, ‘yes you are (going on stage)!’”

Shirley said acting and singing on stage helped conquer her shyness.

“I would have anxiety issues,” Shirley said. “On stage, I could tap into my little artsy side, and I could become anything or anyone.”

Along with acting in various plays, Shirley spent many hours volunteering at the Princess Theatre as a small child until she was a young lady. Shirley said Naomi Cordill played a vital role in her development.

“I would come to (the Princess Theatre), and she would let me help her with tasks,” Shirley said. “I loved working here. I loved painting and working on things backstage.”

Additionally, Shirley completed a degree in vocal music performance from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and teaches private piano and voice lessons. She will continue to offer her professional services in that arena from her new base at the Princess Theatre.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Betsy Lowe Shirley ‘back home’ to the Princess Theatre,” said Princess Board of Directors President Nelda Emfinger. “We obviously have a long, wonderful relationship with Betsy as a performer, and we believe she will bring that same history and love of our theatre to this job. She is young, creative, energetic and the board of directors looks forward to working alongside her to keep the Princess Theatre vibrant and relevant to our community.”

Shirley took over the reins from Robby Spradling who was serving as interim operations manager.

“We’re so grateful to Robby for his time, dedication and hard work,” Emfinger said. “We will continue to count on his support and valuable contributions to the theatre.”

As operations manager, Shirley’s goal was to build on success gained from the Princess’s last production, “Into The Woods” and see more community involvement.

“I want to tap into the local talent pool,” Shirley said. “Potential for greatness is here.”

Emfinger agreed with Shirley.

“There is nothing like coming to watch your friends and family perform on stage,” Emfinger said.

Also, Shirley said she would like to see more productions involving children. One such production is a “Charlie Brown Christmas.” The Princess Theatre crew recently completed auditions for the holiday production.

“I want to see a lot more people become involved,” Shirley said. “I want to see a variety of performers on our stage. You really don’t know what you can do until you try.”

With the excitement, work ethic and youthfulness of Shirley, the success of the Princess Theatre is “Just Scratchin’ The Surface.”

For more information, the Princess Theatre’s office hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Its phone number is (318) 435-6299.

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