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At Home on the Stage

story by Michelle Seivers

"I've always been dramatic," says Selaney "Laney" Yancey, 16.

When she was six, Laney was cast as the lead in a church Christmas production. Mid-performance, while she was onstage, her mic fell off. She was stunned but then made a joke and carried on as the audience laughed. "I remember I liked the way that felt," she says.

Ten years later, Laney is a junior at McCracken County High School, where she continues to perform. Her day revolves around drama, from first hour drama class to after-school rehearsals at MainStage School of Performing Arts. She is playing Audrey in their production of "Little Shop of Horrors."  Laney loves the whole story that comes with musical theater. She has always loved stories, books having been her first love. "I would lose myself in the story," she says.

For Laney, theater has been therapeutic, helping her to deal with a teenager's need to fit in, to find identity.  Though she has struggled with the quiet that comes at night with nothing to distract her mind, now, she says, "at the end of the day, I feel pleased that I could take on the day. I'm proud."  She says theater has helped her not only become a better actor, but also a better person. "I had to find my own home, not in other people but in myself," she says.  "Theater helped me do that; it created this whole safe space."

Laney's dream?  New York University to study musical theater. "I want to give entertainment to people," she says.

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Laney, junior editor for the school newspaper, takes time during her lunch break to work on final edits. Laney shares with Stephanie Rathgeber, her teacher and school newspaper adviser, a quote from the film "Beetlejuice" that she has used in an article.

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Laney takes an algebra quiz after lunch.

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To escape the chaos of the school cafeteria, Laney and her friends eat lunch in the library.

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Laney rehearses as Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors,” the upcoming production at Paducah's MainStage School of Performing Arts.

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Laney finishes her makeup before waking up her younger brother to catch their ride to school.

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Laney cherishes the relationship she has with her mother, Amy Williams, who often leaves encouraging notes for her. "She's the kind of woman I want to be one day--someone who loves with everything in her and does it with no stipulations," Laney says. "She's a superwoman with an artist's heart. She's gone through bad times and still has this unbeatable strength."

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Laney says she has found a community and a sense of belonging in theater.