With the close of the school year I have been thinking more and more about some of the kids I have been around all day and how I have seen them grow and change throughout the year. Some of them I will not see again. They were here as exchange students and have returned to their homelands. Some graduated a few weeks ago. Some will move on to different interests. Some will return in the fall and will continue learning in theatre classes and experiences. What they share a bond that crosses languages and barriers. What they share is a desire to learn together and to stay in school. What they share is a safe place.
The first live theatre production I ever saw was at my local high school when I was in third grade. As soon as the lights went down and the action began I was transfixed. It was alive! It presented real humanity and it was happening right in front of me. It was so cool! I fell in love with theatre. Before that experience I thought everyone in the entertainment industry was fancy and rich. My family was neither fancy nor rich. That experience taught me that theatre was for all people.
I started theatre classes when I was in high school. I was a mis-fit. Theatre gave me a place to belong. Theatre welcomed my creative ideas. Theatre comforted me when I needed that comfort. I learned that I wasn’t crazy about “being on stage.” I learned that I love the creative process.
Do you remember your first experience with theatre? Do you remember the first time you sat in a darkened theatre and waited for someone to speak, to tell you a story, to tickle your funny bone, to lift your spirits, to give voice to your feelings, or to inspire a transformation of soul? Perhap you remember when seeing Jean Valjean’s face as something other than a small bobbing ball of blurry color a hundred rows in front of you. Perhaps you saw Jean Valjean in agony up close and personal.. Either way, I bet you were moved deeply.
Theatre has, and continues to speak to me and through me. Theatre is something I now share with others. I now have the opportunity to share intimate theatre experiences with students. Now I am seeing how theatre, on and off the stage, is having a huge influence on the personalities of the kids I serve.
Together we are learning that theatre isn’t just about acting and singing on stage for entertainment, it’s also about allowing yourself to spread your wings and get out of your shell. It helps you to open up and and embrace new ideas. It changes the way we feel, think, and see things. It can even change the way we act toward different situations.
For many of the kids, theatre is a safe place to be themselves.
One of my favorite quotes is from Stella Adler, “The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means seeing the place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.”
I love these kids. I love that they feel like theatre is a safe place. I love that, together, we can explore what it means to be human.