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Rising Stars: Meet Shelley Norfleet and Bonnie Dolan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelley Norfleet and Bonnie Dolan.

Hi Shelley and Bonnie, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
We have been best friends for eight years, ever since we met doing a community college theatre production of Footloose! I (Bonnie) played Vi, the preacher’s wife, and Shelley played Urleen, the main character’s best friend. And despite not spending that many rehearsals together, since our characters’ storylines were pretty separate, we bonded over our shared sense of humor, ability to harmonize, and desire to stay up talking in the parking lot until 3AM with our other friend, Ami, talking about boys in the cast.

We’ve been through so much together – breakups, career changes, family difficulty, falling in love, failure, success, coming out as queer… and at this point, we’re practically married. We are each other’s plus ones to weddings and events, spend holidays with each other’s families, and – did we mention we live together and have for five years? (We’re two years away from common law marriage at this point!) Pretty much everyone in our respective families and friend circles either wants us to be a couple or think we already are.

So we thought, you know what? Let’s look at this for real. What could our friendship gain from investing the kind of time, energy, and heart into it that we so often put into our romantic relationships? Could it grow to be romantic? Or could we explore even deeper into what a friendship has capacity for?

So we decided to “podcast date” for one hour each week in our living room, spending quality, vulnerable – and funny! – time together in order to explore the depth of our relationship.

Thus, “Everybody Ships Us” was born. 🙂

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Shelley: Well, we started doing this for us, and while we’re still doing this for us, we eventually decided to share it with people. So switching gears to knowing people are going to be listening has been a challenge. Because with each other, alone, we’re able to be vulnerable and talk about whatever we want because we’ve established that level of trust over eight years of friendship, but when we add the layer of an audience, it s either harder to be truly open and vulnerable… or you do it anyway and people know about it. And you just have to learn to be okay with that.

Bonnie: Mental health has been a struggle for us during the pandemic, as it’s been for a lot of people in really specific ways, and since this podcast began during the pandemic, our ability to be not just vulnerable but even mentally present consistently sometimes was a struggle. And trying to figure out – okay, what about this struggle should I show on the podcast to help people feel less alone with theirs, and what of this struggle should I keep just for me, to allow myself to have privacy and breathing room to heal? And that balance was and is something we talk about a lot. We aim to be really honest, as long as it’s not detrimental to our personal healing and growth.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Our podcast dates are so wild, we never know what’s going to happen next. I think that’s what sets us apart from other podcasts – is just the absolute roller coaster we go on every week. The other week, when we tried to say the same word as each other in an improv game called Mind Meld, which we absolutely love to play, we ended up saying “Shrek” together – and naturally, that led to finding Shrek/Guy Fieri mashup memes on the internet. And then another week, we dove into our childhoods and confided in each other one thing we would like to change about them if we could. So our episodes really span the truth of what a healthy friendship actually is – belly laughter and emotional safety.

We make up songs for every segment and try to harmonize with each other. We play improv games. We ask really deep and personal questions. We navigate through conflict in the interest of keeping our friendship honest and kind. We giggle – TOO MUCH. And – we invite guests into this madness to give us some insight into their approach to friendships and relationships. It’s too much fun. We can’t believe we get to do this.

As for ourselves, well…

Shelley: I wear a lot of hats, bro. Outside of the podcast, I currently work as a personal assistant to an actress, division manager of a production company’s advertising department, I act, I direct, and I go where people need me. I am most proud of my adaptability, flexibility, all the -ilities. I really do like having my hat in a lot of different rings. You know what? I’m here for a good time, not a long time. I’m still trying to figure out the world and what I want from it, but in the meantime at least I get to go on a date every week with my best friend as she helps me figure it out.

Bonnie: In addition to Everybody Ships Us, I work as an actor, director, producer, and a teacher. I also wear a lot of hats, bro. The great and terrifying thing about being in a creative field is that in order to make a living, you have to kind of patchwork together paychecks using a bunch of different skills. I love it, though. I get bored if I’m only doing one thing. The thing I feel the most fulfilled by right now is teaching. I teach acting using the language of Viewpoints, and I’m mentored by Alexandra Billings – who, by the way, is a powerful, magic, gorgeous, divine teacher. Working and learning from her is a real career highlight.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Shelley: Equipment costs a lot, haha. It’s also harder to find your rhythm than expected. But once you do, just be authentic and trust that you are doing this for a reason and that people will want to listen. Because weirdly, people do want to listen!

Bonnie: I would say in addition to investing in quality equipment, spend some time on YouTube or something and learn how that equipment works. Figure out where you should invest in top of the line stuff (mics!) and where you can get away with the low-budget option – and why. Ask your friends for help with things you don’t understand. And I second what Shelley says about authenticity. You, exactly as you are, is enough. (But also, learn to speak with less “ums.” Your editor will thank you.)

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All photos with a yellow background should be credited to Cynthia Price Photography

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