The first time I stepped into a theatre class, I got quite a punch in the face — literally. We were learning stage combat. I was punching people, they were punching me, I pulled hair, and they pulled my hair. I was being pushed, slapped, and thrown on the floor, and yet, I knew this was a place for me.
First and foremost, I would like to clarify the difference between “theatre” and “theater”. Theatre, with an “re” is the art of acting, whereas theater with an “er” is a place where an art is performed or seen. I personally feel that my five years as a thespian has prepared me for all that is ahead. As a high school senior, I felt confident about college and scholarship interviews, not because of my resume, but because I was able to think fast and creatively. All those days I had agonized over improv now finally paid off. Theatre also helped me become a more confident person, and ironically, it has helped me build a stronger trust with people while also helping me become an independent young adult. Of course, you have to trust in others to do their role on stage, but you must first learn to trust yourself and know that others are putting a lot of trust in you. You must be confident that you will remember your lines, songs, places, and props. Some scenes may put you in an awkward situation, and you must learn to mature with your fellow actor. You also learn to take care of your body. You may have long tiresome rehearsals the night before the show and you must learn how to preserve your energy and rest. And hydration is always key.
I also feel that theatre has made me an accepting person to many different cultures and every aspect of life. While there may always be culture and race differences, I think the arts can bring people together. I participated in the Tennessee Thespian Conference for three years, and every year there were more than twenty high schools from across the state, both public and private, that involved every race, social background, and economic background. There were jocks and thespians, gay people and straight people, male, female, transgender, and everyone possible; however, no matter how this person defined themselves, we were all there for the same reason. My fear is that when college freshmen are pushed out into the real world, they don't know or understand all that is out there and are culture-shocked.
Finally, there are so many amazing people in theatre. I believe that it is good to surround yourself with people that are more talented than you. This can be applied to not only theatre, but also all other arts, sports, academics, etc. You now have someone who can intentionally, or unintentionally, become a mentor to you. You can learn from them and push yourself to achieve greater things.
Before I joined theatre, I never felt accepted and I felt ashamed to be a ballerina, something that I am so passionate about. Immediately within my first few weeks, I felt as if I had found a home away from home and this stayed true for my entire theatre career. Theatre changed my life, opened me up to new experiences and new life views, and prepared me for college and my future. I thank theatre for allowing me to become the person that I am and for being able to accept myself.
Lead Image Credit: Stan Dunlap Photography
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