The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 2, 2004


Erica Shieh creates a room of her own

Erica Shieh loves the addition of a small stage to the corner of her room where she often practices the clarinet. The Carlisle eighth-grader helped the show's carpenter build the stage in the filming of "Knock First," an ABC Family cable television series.
Not every teenager gets to redecorate her room exactly as she wants without any parental interference and have the results featured on the ABC Family cable television show "Knock First." Then again, not every 13-year-old has a casting agency in Boston that gives her the opportunity to audition.

"I was, like, sure!" says Erica Shieh, an eighth-grade student at the Carlisle Public School. "Who wouldn't want to get their room redone?"

The agent called at 10 p.m. on a school night in December. Erica had to get her friends to agree to an audition the next day at her house at 161 Nathan Lane, and call back the agent. Dani Judson and Arley Donovan, also local eighth-graders, answered the call. The show producers chose Shieh and her friends, and filming took place in mid-January. Another Carlisle eighth-grader, Aaron Freedman, unsolicited by Shieh, also appeared in the show. Freedman and Shieh both play the clarinet in the school's senior band, and are in constant competition according to Judson and Donovan.

The show featuring Shieh first aired in March. It was the 45th of 50 shows filmed for the series. Shieh tried to keep a low profile; she seemed surprised that the Carlisle Mosquito heard about it. A re-run of the show will air on Thursday, April 22, at 5:30 p.m. on the ABC Family cable channel.

From "Victorian Frankenstein" to "cool"

Before "Knock First" came to the rescue, Shieh had an innocuous room with the peeling cream-colored walls, a broken closet door, and curtains with pink ruffles. On the show, Shieh described the style as "Victorian Frankenstein." She says, "It just wasn't me."

Although the show featured two designers, two carpenters and the three friends, there was a crew of about 50 people on site for two days. The show sent parents Falin and Karin Shieh to the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge for the weekend.

In the first stage, called "deconstruction," everything came out of the 16 1/2' x 11 1/2' room. Based on previous interviews with Erica, the designer suggested purple walls and a green border for the walls. The teenagers painted the walls, and decorated the trim with mirror discs. They stained the furniture. A carpenter from the show built a new desk and shelves with the help of the girls.

Erica Shieh, also a seamstress, designed and sewed all the multitude of pillows ­ except one ­ in her room. The television crew provided the bedcover and other fabrics, as well as the materials for Shieh and her friends to paint the glass acrylic painting hanging above the bed.

Shieh, having mentioned she and her friends liked to perform skits, was thrilled by the plans to build a stage for the corner of her room. She helped in the construction of the structure. The "Knock First" cast made her a present of a silver mini-camcorder to tape the skits. Today Shieh primarily uses the stage to practice her clarinet.

"I love it," says the teenager of the updated room, "It's me!"

Managing a busy schedule

Shieh has a very strong interest in music. She has played piano for six years, and clarinet for five. She performs as part of the New England Conservatory's wind ensemble. She also plays competitive tennis. A serious student, she loves science the best of all her subjects. She enjoys acting, and last year she performed in a play put on by the Concord Youth Theatre.

Shieh has two sisters. The eldest, Emily, attends Boston University as a sophomore studying business and competed in tennis while at Concord-Carlisle High School. Elena, the youngest, a seventh grader, has signed on for her third season in the TV series "Zoom."

How do these parents keep up with such busy daughters? Both work full-time. Karin Shieh is a software engineer doing Oracle database administration in Peabody. Falin Shieh as a missile-guidance control engineer at Lincoln Laboratories in Lexington.

"They manage their own schedules very well," says Karin Shieh of her busy daughters, "And they are also straight-A students. They just got their report cards back, and it was very impressive. As long as they manage their homework and get good grades, it's fine to be busy."

Strong parental support makes it all work. Karin Shieh shows up at work every day at 7 a.m. and works until 3 p.m. Then she starts driving the girls around to various activities. That used to also involve skating lessons for both Erica and Elena which their mother believes helped them develop performance and presentation skills. Falin Shieh picks up his share of driving in the evening and weekends.

"By myself I could not manage it," admits Karin Shieh. "My husband and I share responsibilities. As a parent, I feel my role is to help them find out what they can do the best. I hope to give them all kinds of opportunities. Once they find out, my role is to help them and support them."

Back in 2002, Erica and Elena Shieh had heard about auditions for "Zoom." That's when both girls got involved with the casting agency, and their parents found auditions also added to their driving schedules. The agent thought of Erica when scouting candidates for the show "Knock First." The series, produced locally, filmed the episodes for national distribution, but has completed its schedule and will not make any new shows. Fortunately, based on the on-screen presence of Erica Shieh, the show renovated the room of one Carlisle teenager.

ABC Family cable television show: "Knock First," features Erica Shieh in a half-hour show on Thursday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito