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Oct 18 2017
by Thea Toocheck

4 Life Lessons I Learned from High School Theater

By Thea Toocheck - Oct 18 2017

I’ve been acting for as long as I can remember. I went from putting on one-person shows for my relatives when I was a toddler to years in school and community theater. Finally, I was a part of six of my high school’s shows. Spending so much time in the auditorium, under the tutelage of different directions and surrounded by friends I would not have met otherwise has shown me how to be adaptable and respectful, and how to juggle endless responsibilities.

1. Be flexible. 

The most important thing to realize when you’re joining a cast is that you’re going to have to be flexible and adaptable and that everyone expects you to be happy about it. When I was in "West Side Story," rehearsals often ran very long, and many times when I was called to run scenes. I was asked to stand aside as other aspects of those scenes were perfected. I had to be able to carry on both as a character and as a person. I often had other plans that needed to be changed because of delays in the rehearsal schedule. In addition, as a character, you may be put in situations that make you uncomfortable, but you have to be able to put on a brave face in front of the audience and make it work. My junior year, I was in a show called "The Bully Plays," a collection of one-acts about bullying in schools. In one of the acts, I was cast as a mean and intimidating student, and I had to yell at and make fun of my friends in the show. I always felt terrible calling them names and pushing them around, but to make the scene work, I had to do it. These experiences showed me the importance of being able to adjust to whatever life throws at you.

Thea Toocheck

2. Practice multitasking.

Rehearsals sometimes seem endless. Whether they run longer than expected or you know you have things to do afterward, they take up much of your time. While though some directors don’t seem to be aware of this, rehearsal isn’t the only priority in your life. Schoolwork, social engagements and family life make demands on you too. You have to find a way to juggle them all. This is where multitasking comes in handy. If you can finish your math worksheet when they’re running scenes you’re not in, you’ve gotten yourself that much closer to finishing your homework. This isn’t always ideal, of course. Chances are, you’ll want to socialize during your breaks, and you need to make sure you actually understand the work you’re doing. However, if you can manage your time right, it’s very helpful. For example, in Charlotte’s Web my sophomore year, I was a narrator and spent the whole show downstage right. I was able to hold my World History textbook in my lap and take notes as Wilbur had his adventures. Learning to manage my time thus helped me tremendously throughout school.

Thea Toocheck

3. Grow and learn.

When you’re cast in a show, you’re given responsibilities and expectations that you may not have known came with your role. You need to show up to rehearsal every day – on time – because people count on you to be present when you’re needed. If you’re an upperclassman, you often need to show the younger students how to apply makeup and juggle rehearsals and schoolwork while also setting a good example. With such expectations thrust upon you, you change for the better. In addition, you’ll make new friends with your crew and castmates who are often in different grades and have different interests than you. We learn from our friends. These people often show you a different perspective because all types of people are involved in theater. Plus, having more friends is rarely a bad thing. I still keep in touch with friends I made in shows from all four years of my high school career, and it’s cool to see them in different stages of their lives. Theater helps you find new interests and be bold – even if you’re just pretending –and this is valuable in many situations.

Thea Toocheck

4. Respect

Many people don’t realize just how much work it takes to put up a show. While actors are no doubt praised after the curtain drops, they, the stage crew, the tech crew and, in musicals, the pit, have been laboring for weeks or even months over every little detail that brought the story to life. In addition, when I was in "Charley’s Aunt" my senior year, my amazing director had to go through surgery, and I helped cover rehearsals and discovered that being a director is no easy feat either. Directors have to make sure everything goes over smoothly as actors memorize their lines and entrances; the stage crew has to build and paint for hours until everything looks perfect, while the musicians practice endlessly; and though I’m aware that they control the mics and sound, I don’t really understand what tech crew does – it’s that impressive. In addition, having a couple really terrible directors has reminded me of what characteristics I value and why individuals deserve to be respected. Theater made me more aware of the different struggles, varied responsibilities and huge team effort it takes to pull off anything. For this reason, I respect people more in their many careers and personal journeys.

Robert Caputo

All in all, theater has helped shape me into who I am today, and my times in the high school auditorium are some of my fondest memories of high school. In my senior yearbook, I described my favorite memory as my spring play shenanigans. Though I have no aspirations to be a professional actress, I hope that theater remains part of my life because creating a show is a wonderful experience.

Lead Image Credit: Robert Caputo

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Thea Toocheck - Gettysburg College

Thea Toocheck is a freshman at Gettysburg College and plans to double major in English and History. She loves reading, traveling, writing, musicals, and her dog, Cosmo. Thea is also the author of the Transcendence Series and a fan of sleeping, Harry Potter, and anything Disney.

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