When Amanda Yuan of Clarksville was 3 years old, she would often hide under the tables at preschool, too shy to play with the other kids. Her parents decided to get her involved in anything that would bolster her social skills, and signed her up at a drama learning center.
Now, you would never know that the 11-year-old budding actress ever struggled to assert herself . On Thursday, she will be one of the youngest among a group of child performers - including three from Maryland - to take part in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade finale in New York City.
Yuan was among more than 400 singers and dancers who tried out for the Macy's performance troupe, which has performers from 22 states and three countries. Yuan will be appearing in the parade with Lauren Harkins, 15, of Silver Spring and Jordan Silver, 15, of Davidsonville.
The young performers from Maryland all attended the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. The center offers an immersion theater for young actors, singers and dancers. Yuan attended Stagedoor Manor last summer.
Also performing are the Towson University Marching Tigers, the only college band slated to appear in the parade.
Oddly enough, Amanda says that before being selected she had never seen the Macy's parade. She has since viewed it online.
"That's why I'm really honored to be in it this year," she said, "because it's really special that this year's my first year of watching it and my first year of actually being in it. If we do a good job, hopefully I will be invited to go back next year."
It marks the biggest break for the young actress who, through her parents' guidance, discovered that underneath her bashfulness lay a wealth of talent waiting to be tapped.
Acting made her more confident, prompting Amanda to pursue ice skating, dance and singing. She eventually abandoned the ice for the stage and has performed in many local productions, including a role in "Annie" at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia. The show runs through Jan. 24.
She has also sung the national anthem at Bowie Baysox games. She appeared in a "Sesame Street" segment, "The Word on the Street," last month.
"She did regional theater and community theater here, and I think she became really confident at that point," said Amanda's mother, Lucy Liu - who added that she's often confused with the actress of the same name.
Silver has attended Stagedoor Manor for five years, following in the footsteps of older sister Geri. He has appeared locally at the Signature Theatre, the Colonial Players and Olney Theatre.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be a part of the parade," said Silver, "because it's very rare that somebody gets to be picked for it. And it's great to see all my camp friends and to be working with them again."
His mother, Louise Silver, said it's a thrill to be able to watch her son appear in the parade. "We watch it every year and so do our kids," she said.
Konnie Kittrell, production director at Stagedoor Manor, said she "laughed out loud" when told stories about Amanda's shyness. "She has such a glow; all energy and light."
Even Amanda marvels at how far she's come.
"I used to have KinderCare, and I wouldn't go into the room until my mom pushed me in," she said. "I think of how I would be if I didn't do this stuff. I'd be like somebody, an ordinary girl. And I wouldn't have this opportunity."