What Theatre Gave to Me

As I reflect back on my years in high school, I remember days that I longed to get out of class, stretches of boredom, of stress, of excitement, friendships that have faded and others that have flourished, routine complaints of homework, unexpected pockets of genuine conversation at the lunch table, the zipping of backpacks in anticipation of the bell, the couples that make out in nooks of the school, and the unexpectedly kind or interesting substitutes. It has all culminated to this moment. One of me, sitting in my room and somewhat bitterly swallowing the fact that it’s over, and I never get a real farewell.

I don’t want to make this about what I’ve lost. We have all lost something because of this virus, so there’s no purpose in trying to one up one another. I want to talk about what I’ve gained from my time in high school, specifically in being a theatre kid. I know that “theatre kids” are notorious for being the freakish outsiders, but hey, we thrive on diversity. Friendships, classes, emotions, and circumstances shifted from year to year, but theatre was the thing that stuck with me the whole time I was at Har-Ber. 

Enter 5 year old Emily, shamelessly singing and dancing in front of my fireplace, failing to get my little sister to sing along too. Some between here and there that confidence washed up, leaving me insecure and intimidated. 

Now, enter timid sophomore Emily. I remember I was sitting outside the auditioning room waiting and questioning why I was even there, thinking “you don’t even belong here, you aren’t experienced enough, you aren’t prepared.” Looking back on it, that was so out of my comfort zone. I can’t believe I auditioned. I only knew one other person trying out. 

I wasn’t sitting there for too long before someone came up to talk to me. I think my inner distraught was written all over my face. My first new friend, president of the troupe, and soon to be castmate, senior Chris Hutchings sat next to me and encouraged me for the next five minutes. That was my first interaction with a theatre kid at Har-Ber, and it pretty much sums up the enduring love and hospitality among those in the troupe.

So back to my confidence levels. There’s nothing like being thrown in front of an audience and having to pretend to be a sexy french maid that will boost your confidence. But really, when I act I feel like I’m in a constant state of vulnerability. My goal is to convince a group of people that I am someone they know I’m not and showing emotions I wouldn’t normally bear to the world. It has been a process getting myself to feel like I can completely open up and act freely. It takes letting go of fear and self-doubt to be able to perform in an authentic way that connects with the audience. 

I really don’t want to stop pursuing theatre because of all it has shown me. Take teamwork. I have absolutely hated group projects and never done a team sport in my life. However, putting on a show is like one, giant group project. It can seem like a nightmare if you think about it that way though. Think about it like this: talented, passionate, creative individuals who come together with a unified goal. I can’t describe the humble proudness I feel while putting on a show. While I can do my part he also has to know his lines and she has to remember her cue and so on and so on. It is all built on trust. Nothing can be done alone. I was taught the beauty of genuine collaboration. Self-reliance may feel safer, but it’s not near as fun.

I’m going to miss so many memories. Singing in the dressing room, eating the props closing night, sliding around in my socks on stage, talking in the techies headset, playing just dance at cast parties, having bizarre backstage conversations, finally running a scene without stopping, unexpected improvisations, and the exhilaration of stepping out on that stage on opening night. 

I thought that joining theatre was a mistake at first because it was different than I imagined. How wrong I was and what a gift it became. So many things could have hindered me from experiencing all I did, but nothing did. 

I don’t want to end this without giving my thanks. Thank you God for orchestrating it all, even when I didn’t know what I wanted. Thanks mom and dad for never holding me back and coming to every performance and sis for helping me with my lines. Thanks Mr. Terrell, my most favorite director, for making E-106 a home for all of us and loving us like your own. And of course thank you to all my fellow thespians. To Chris for welcoming me first, to Faith and Steele for sticking with me since middle school drama and to everyone in the program. Your passion and commitment to the arts and each other is why I fell in love with theatre in the first place.