May 25, 2022 at 8:04 p.m.
Show celebrates career of Margaret Shelby, renames auditorium after her
The audience entered the Sauk Centre Public Schools auditorium, and they left The Margaret Shelby Theatre. In between, they took in “The Margaret Show: Ms. Shelby’s Grand Finale,” a production commemorating the inspirational 37-year-long career of Sauk Centre High School’s beloved theatre director and speech coach, Margaret Shelby.
The show, held the evening of May 21, incorporated a wide range of theatre, speech, song and dance, including selections ranging from the first one-act production Shelby directed, “The Miracle Worker,” all the way to her last and state-starred one-act show, “Dark Road.” Alumni of hers from across the country came to the event and performed; several of them spoke at breaks in the action to thank Shelby directly for the impact she had on their lives.
“I know that many of us here could share wonderful memories that we have of Margaret, whether we’re a parent or a family member or a student who had the pleasure of calling her teacher,” said Michelle Kuhlmann, 1991 SCHS graduate. “I’ve had the pleasure of calling Margaret not only a teacher but a friend.”
When the time came for Shelby’s speech, she spent much of it thanking the people who have contributed to making her career as enjoyable as it was, especially the custodial staff, the school’s office, her family, the community and, of course, her students.
“I think you understand maybe why I love my job,” Shelby said. “It’s the voices; can you hear them? I love the voices, how they can recreate these performances they did 29 years ago. It’s just been beautiful. I was so lucky to come to Sauk Centre, so lucky…I realized a long time ago that 90% of success is just showing up, and that’s all I’ve done for 37 years.”
The event capped off with a presentation of honors for Shelby, including Sauk Centre mayor Warren Stone issuing the city’s proclamation that May 21 had been designated as Margaret Shelby Day. Finally, SCPS board chairperson Brad Kirckof came onstage to inform Shelby that, at their June 27 meeting, the SCPS board would be approving renaming the SCPS auditorium as The Margaret Shelby Theatre.
The show also served as a fundraiser, collecting donations for the Margaret Shelby Dollars for Scholars Scholarship, to be given to SCHS students starting in 2023.
A life of theatre
Growing up in Hampton, Iowa, Shelby got her love for theatre by hanging out backstage while her sister participated in plays and musicals in high school. Shelby herself performed in high school plays such as “110 Degrees in the Sun,” also joining a comedy club company and performing in coffee house shows. She went on to the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to direct shows, one-act productions and the oral interpretation program, and when she graduated, she was awarded the Purple and Old Gold Award for her outstanding contribution to the oral interpretation program.
Shelby first taught in Red Oak, Iowa, and later State Center, Iowa; she then moved to Brooten, staying there for a couple of years before moving to Sauk Centre. In her 37 years at SCHS, she directed the fall school play – replaced by the fall musical, co-directed by Bonnie Nelson – one-act plays and most of the speech program. Shelby directed 32 one-act plays and 13 plays and co-directed 17 musicals, and under her guidance, speech and theatre achieved many state championships, and the SCHS One Act team finished first or second at sections 18 times.
Shelby was awarded the Communications and Theatre Association of Minnesota Award in 2013, an honor recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions to communication and/or theatre education in Minnesota.
In retirement, Shelby plans to spend more time traveling and being with her 6-month-old grandchild.