“Center stage. A single spotlight.”

Enter Sharpay Evans, the notorious antagonist of the acclaimed trilogy High School Musical. For those unfamiliar with the story, here’s a quick recap:

  1. Troy is a basketball star
  2. Gabriella is a math and science wiz
  3. They both give theatre a chance
  4. Long story short, they get the leads

Yet, that is not the entire story. Throughout the films, the audience witnesses Sharpay’s intense dedication to her craft as it blooms and undergoes scrutiny. On the surface, Ms. Evans is an obvious villain because she sabotages their callback; however, on a deeper character level she reveals a trait often overlooked in movies: dedication and perseverance.

Sharpay grew up in the theatre; it is assumed that she is often the star of productions, so when Troy and Gabriella arrive, she suggests they audition for supporting roles. While her tone is lined with snarkiness, what she is actually saying is thoughtful and a smart piece of advice for anyone going into a new atmosphere. She moves the callback times so they conflict with Troy’s basketball game and Gabriella’s decathlon: a catty move, but one that realistically forces them to choose which activity they will dedicate more time to.

So what does any of this have to do with perseverance and dedication?

Sharpay worked tirelessly to become formidable competition in the theatre community. Theatre is a grueling kind of work that looks easy because that is the goal. But anyone who understands work ethic should be able to sympathize with Sharpay when everything she worked for was swept aside in favor of new talent. It would be the equivalent to the coach benching the best players just to give the younger and newer kids a shot.

But be careful—being benched is not an automatic negative. Growth is born out of disappointment, and Sharpay takes her role as an understudy with grace and a hint of salt. Fast forward through the next two movies and by the end, Sharpay has developed into a better person and performer because, despite working hard and still being pushed aside, she kept going. She continued to be the best performer even if she wasn’t going to be the star. Of all the characters throughout the movies, Sharpay Evans was the one to stick to her talents and choose to confidently pursue them even when people hated her for it.

Many movies and TV shows have characters like Sharpay Evans and they are routinely the villains. Sometimes, they lack redeeming qualities and simply are mean and self centered. But Ms. Evans is multi-dimensional. She represents a group of people hard to find on the screen—people who are trying to reach their dreams, people who face setback after setback, powering through even when they are unjust. Giving up is not in Sharpay Evans’ nature, and giving up will never lead to prosperity when important matters are given up. (To see the climactic moment when Sharpay Evans is truly recognized for her work ethic, watch Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure).

Dedication and perseverance will not always be recognized; it rarely is. And when it is overshadowed, it will sting badly. But by going out and continuing to give everything, the people who overlooked will see how much they messed up.

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