COLUMBIA — Before seventh grade, 16-year-old Tyler McCutchen was shy. But as he stands on the stage as Mushnik, one of the lead roles in Battle High School’s production of "Little Shop of Horrors," it's hard to tell.
“At first, I was one of those really timid kids who never came out of his shell,” McCutchen said. “I was really quiet and stuff.”
McCutchen’s mother, who participated in theater productions at Hickman High School, suggested that he try theater as a way to broaden his high school experience.
“They thought at first that I was going to be one of those smart kids, one of those nerdy kids who just did schoolwork and nothing more,” McCutchen said about his parents. “Then I got into theater and they saw how talented and confident I could be, and they thought that was great. They’ve come to every show I’ve done.”
Now 16, with 13 theatrical shows under his belt and aiming to complete 20 by the time he graduates from high school, McCutchen isn’t shy anymore — not even a little.
Even without a microphone he can be heard in the back of the performing arts center, bellowing lines at his fellow actors. He exudes confidence in all three pillars of theater: acting, singing and dancing.
“I don’t have a shell anymore,” he said. “I’m an open person with everybody. Getting up in front of all of those people might feel a little nerve-wracking at first, but … it’s where I want to be.
"I just love the stage. I love the lights and seeing people in the audience and being up there in front of everyone just makes me feel … It’s not even adrenaline because I don’t feel that. I just feel like it’s where I want to be because it makes me the happiest.”