Everyone knows and recognizes a theater kid. Or at least, they think they do. Your typical theater kids would often stick together in groups, can usually be heard humming/whistling/hardcore belting the music of Les Miserables and similar works during any lull of conversation at any given moment, and if you dare talk to one during Tony season, you can expect an eruption of sassy energy and anticipation.
Theater is a common enough extracurricular activity, and it comes attached with its own reputation, appearing in many different guises. Whether through glee clubs and show choirs, school productions, or conservatories, your involvement in “The Theatre”, (as we thespians like to dramatically whisper…or not…Well okay maybe just sometimes…), can be triggered in any number of ways. It encourages camaraderie, creativity and expression, and confidence; irrespective of if you choose to step out onstage for yourself, or prefer to turn your hand to backstage and design work, to ensure that the show really does go on in the end after all.
I first decided to give performing a try when I was nine years old, and since then I began a journey through local pantomimes and musicals, small plays, workshops, television appearances, summer schools, and a commercial audition — That’s right, audition, singular. Maybe I was never meant to be the teenage face of Burger King UK after all. But really what I want to say here is that this journey has changed me as a person. Initially quite shy myself, I learned to look people in the eye as I spoke to them, to push for what I wanted and to let go of what other people thought of me. And as for confident people, you’d be perfectly suited to slipping into a new character, and feeling the rush in front of an audience gathered to see you.
There’s nothing like that moment when the cast list is revealed after weeks of auditions and recalls and consideration, or the first rehearsal when you look around at the team you’re about to join for a new production, and you see everyone in a unique light through the role they’re about to play. There’s nothing like the thrill backstage when the five-minute call to the wings urgently crackles over the dressing-room speakers. The theater experience is entirely unique. It can take courage to make that first step, taking the plunge and exposing your voice and heart for others. But all I can tell you is that it’s worth it.
What’s more, like I said, maybe standing alone on the stage itself isn’t for you. But the theater spans far beyond what the audience sees directly, to the props waiting in the wings, the sets which conjure the performance’s entire world, the lights which draw focus and magnify emotional intensity, and the orchestra pit from which the entire backbone of any musical show is born. There’s directing, producing, you could even try writing new material to be performed. The theater is an outlet for all talents imaginable, and never fails to attract interesting and passionate new people, that you might not have met if you’d warily decided not to push yourself beyond your regular comfort zone.
The opportunities truly are endless, and importantly, they are almost everywhere. Through high school to college and beyond, classes and amateur productions will never turn away someone keen to contribute. You can try singing (in any number of styles), dance, improv and comedy. There’s theater tech, and stage or production management. Often, (particularly as a student), there’ll be no cost for your participation in courses and events. And so what if your own niche doesn’t leap out to you at once? Approach people with an idea, because who knows when you might stumble across someone ready and willing to nurture that seed of inspiration into a truly enriching creative experience. Schools and departments are more often than not thrilled to give resources to support projects.
When the curtain rises and the lights go up onstage next time, maybe it’ll be you standing there before the watchful audience. I look forward to seeing you.