Think high school theatre is just a bunch of drama? Think again. There are so many lessons to be learned from high school theatre that will carry you through life.
I never played a sport in high school and was definitely not part of the “in” crowd. I was a fairly good student and I had my friends. While high school is a time of confusion, hormones, and finding yourself, the place I found my true self was in the theatre.
The first thrill of performing I felt was when I was 10. I was given a solo in our school choir concert singing a verse of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”. Enter my first twinge of real self confidence. People thought I could sing? Wow! That’s cool! But, I was 10 at the time and more interested in becoming Princess Leia than a singer.
Bye Bye Band
Fast forward to when I was in 8th grade and gave up band for choir because the boys were in choir, not band. A good reason, right? I auditioned for the musical my middle school was doing (Bye Bye Birdie) and surprisingly got the part of Rosie. This was way more than singing a verse of “Matchmake, Matchmaker” and would be my first experience being on stage. I belted my guts out singing “English Teacher” and fell even more in love with all things theatre. It was the most fun I had had at school in a long time and I knew the theatre was calling my name.
My family moved to San Diego soon after my 8th grade year and my mom took me to see a production of Anything Goes at San Diego Junior Theatre. I was in awe. The kids onstage were so talented and I fell in love even more. My mom registered me for classes and in a few short months I was cast in my first show at Junior Theatre, Mary Poppins.
Throughout my high school years, Junior Theatre became my second home. I would be there practically every day after school for rehearsals and spent my summers there as well. The best friends I had in high school were at Junior Theatre. I learned so much about life in the Casa del Prado Theatre. The lessons I learned in the dressing room and onstage have molded me into the person I became.
Just like being on a sports team, being in a show means teamwork. You must work with your fellow actors and production team to create a final product. If you cannot work in the team, the team will potentially fail. Each person must rely and lean on the other performers. You celebrate your wins, you console each other in your losses. You are a team, with a mutual goal – the success of your show.
Disappointment will come and you learn how to deal with rejection. You will NOT get the part you want every time. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best, the most talented, the best dancer, etc – you won’t get the part every time and you have to deal with it. I will never forget not getting the part of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”. It was a dream part for me, but it wasn’t meant to be. I ended up working on the production team and while it was extremely difficult, it made me a stronger person. The rejection I survived gave me tools to fall back on when rejection inevitably came again.
Theatre allows you to develop creativity and allows you to explore a variety of techniques and creative thinking. In a rehearsal space, you are free to take chances and make mistakes. Rehearsals allow you time to “play” safely with your fellow actors to discover the ins and outs of your character. You can try something new. It may work, it may not. In the rehearsal room and on stage, your creative juices flow.
Through the audition and performing, the actor gains confidence to be in front of a group of people, which transmits to so many areas outside of theatre. Having worked with many young people in theatre throughout my adult life, I can site time and time again a student who was deathly afraid to give a presentation in class. These students developed the confidence to get up in front of their classmates to give a talk or participate in a debate after spending time in the theatre program.
The show will not work if one actor is not accountable. You must be ready to do your part and you must prepare on your own to contribute to the group. The other actors and production team are counting on you. You must be accountable to be at rehearsal. Lines and blocking must be learned. If you fall short at all, the whole show will suffer.
Talk to any student involved in theatre in high school and you will see someone who has to be organized. Hours of rehearsals after school and on the weekends requires great organizational skills to keep up with school work and family obligations. If you can’t manage your time, things can really start to fall apart. Organization is key and theatre kids learn how to juggle multiple responsibilities.
As an actor or crew member, you must be willing and able to take direction and do what you are told. It may be a struggle to do it that way, but the director is the boss and you must follow their lead. This enables the actor to learn how to do what is asked in other aspects of life. At some point in your life you will work for someone you don’t like and you will have to do what they tell you. A good actor knows how to take direction!
Hard Work Will Pay Off
You slog through weeks of rehearsals. Your feet are killing you from doing the same choreography over and over. What is a full night’s sleep? Your brain is fried from remembering all the blocking and lines. Everything feels like it will never come together. And then it does! Your show opens and it’s amazing. You realize the hard work you put in pays off! All the lessons cohesively come together and the experience is magical!
You will make life long friends
The friends you make in high school theatre will be your friends for life. Your paths may take you far and wide, but the bond forged in the theatre will remain. Memories of the good times and the bad times will stay with you and you will look back fondly and remember.
I am fortunate that I remain friends with many from San Diego Junior Theatre. We see each other at reunions and we follow each other on social media. We still celebrate and support each other. I love the memories we share and that I remember with so much love in those years. These friends helped shape me into who I am and I will be forever grateful.
The lessons of high school theatre stay with me today, many years later. I wouldn’t go back, but the memories are wonderful.