Ever look back on your life and realize there were one or two things that made you a more resilient, more confident person? Did you ever recognize how much one activity from when you were young had more of an impact on your career success than anything else? For me, it was participating in high school plays.
One year, our co-ed high school did not hold a play. My sisters and I were disappointed because we wanted to try out for a play. But it happened that the all-boys high school a few miles away needed young ladies to star in their version of Fiddler on The Roof. We were ecstatic! We tried out and because we were so very talented (and the competition was limited) we all made it onto the stage with a role to play.
Over 40 years later, we reconnected with fellow actors via Facebook and Zoom. What a kick to get back in touch with these folks and learn how big an impact Fiddler had on them as well. Here are just a few comments they sent me when I asked, “What did High School Theater do for you?”
Being involved with theater took a shy, insecure, physically small boy,
ignited a passion in the performing arts that continues to this day. All levels of performing arts had an impact: on stage, behind the stage, creation, production, promotion and audience interaction. Being involved in theatre, created self-like, love and confidence, that continues to serve me today. I learned there are things I can do: sing, dance, feel emotions, the confidence to be open in front of persons I do not know.
Theater opened my creative flow, in more that the arts, My life was no longer just black and white but amazing color. I met wonderfully diverse groups of people my age and older. I met people I never would have ever met. I shared with my show-mates intense emotions and friendships that endure and will continue to grow. In short, being involved with theatre taught me acceptance, discipline, tolerance, love, loyalty, respect, problem solving and much much more, the most important being love.
In the times before a social network was borne of bits and bytes, there were networks that were more than social: they were networks that influenced pieces of the rest of our lives. God and Mother Nature conspired to put our bodies and minds into the throes of puberty at the exact time to coincide with entry into High School and all the happiness, sadness, thrills and heart break any one soul can handle. The meek became stronger or more meek. The strong could melt into a puddle of humility or become a force to be reckoned with.
A small segment of confused, meek and strong adolescents came together to test their talents on a stage. They eschewed the High School sports activities and were pulled together to form a team that went through practices and drills that would become a somewhat polished performance on their version of “game day.”
The “theater kids” team is a rag-tag bunch in search of discovering love and self-worth. The love they discover may be for themselves or, often, one of the other theater kids. It may manifest as a deep, hopefully lifelong passion that challenges the most romantic stories of history. However, and more likely, it will be an unrequited love that enables us to commit to another at a different place and time. It is satisfying as a fresh cup of coffee to know in our hearts that friendships we formed back then keep us warm and content into the present day.
To those who are roiled in adolescence, consider this an urge to break the surly bonds of a “bits and bytes” social network. Join a team which, while it may not bring lifelong happiness, provides experiences that will soften your heart, enflame your passions, foster self-realization and self-worth and provide a decades-back look at love and friendship.
Become a theater kid.
From my perspective, it is gratifying to know you can pick up with people you shared such fun times, hard work and gratifying outcomes as if it was yesterday. I too was a shy, quiet young person who had never before performed in front of an audience. (Dancing to Johnny Cash in my bedroom with a make believe microphone didn’t count.) We all agreed that being a “theater kid” contributed to self-confidence, the ability to think before one speaks, and most importantly, the discipline to work cooperatively as a team. We learned what it felt like to “win” with performances we knew were as could as it gets and to “lose” when we didn’t work hard enough.
People who participate in theater, sports or other organized activities are trained to put your own needs on the back burner in favor of team goals. This experience turns young people into valued employees, business owners and community leaders. One activity is just as good as another to build this kind of personal growth but there’s something special about the theater. And every time I hear the strains of Sunrise, Sunset or If I Were a Rich Man, it brings it all back. We will never perform together again, but it is wonderful to share memories that made us all very, very rich in so many ways!