“There are moments that the words don’t reach.”
This article was originally published for The Odyssey on November 28, 2016.
As I sit in my local library, I notice there is a section where they are selling books for no more than a quarter each. I find a book titled “One-Act Plays For Beginners”. Luckily, I had a quarter in my pocket. I spent the entire rest of that week acting these plays out by myself, changing my diction and my posture each time a new character emerged. I longed for someone else to act with me. That is when my theater indulgence began.
Freshman year of high school rolls around and a poster that advertises auditions for the fall play catches my eye. “Treasure Island” was the pick of the quarter, and I knew a few friends interested in auditioning. Completely terrified and not sure how my audition would go, I got up on that stage and read the female lines. Cast list comes out, and I have gained a spot in the ensemble. Here is where my theater obsession began.
For the next four years, I spent many stressful nights acting, whether it be for ensemble, a small part, or a slightly bigger part. For the next four years, I spent hours after school in an auditorium that had cultivated too many memories for me to count. I passed time in the costume closet and the dressing rooms. The drama department became my second home. Not just because I spent so much time there, but because I made so many friends and created memories that cannot be explained to anyone outside of theater because, well, you had to be there.
It is not just ‘play practice’. The theater department whisks you away for hours to entertain you with backstage shenanigans, acting strategies, costume debacles, artwork and too many diction exercises. Even when there is downtime in the theater, you are catching your breath from all the work you have just completed. Sometimes you have too much time to breathe. That is how you know it is time to get back to work.
High school theater may have been a simpler time. College theater and university theater is where the real work begins. Set building and costuming have to be completed on your own time. Many late nights are spent trying to pull a show together with a minimal amount of people. Often the burden of tech, the lights and sound, props and costuming fall on one person. The feeling received after completing a show is much greater, much more deserved in college than in high school.
It is not just ‘play practice’. The theater department is where I cry, where I am able to release my anger, where I know I will always be safe. Participating in drama has given me the most amazing opportunities, and given me the chance to meet people I would never have had the shows not brought us together.
I have been an actor, a stagehand, a painter, a costume person, a program creator, house manager, stage manager, sound designer, light designer, and director. As I head into the tech week of my second time directing, I realized I have underestimated just how stressful a show can be. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the opportunity to make this show something not only I but also my cast can be proud of.
People who participate in theater know what teamwork means. There can be no show without a team. We are a theater machine; each gear must turn and fulfill its duty before the machine can move forward. It would impossible to do everything in a show by yourself. We are thankful to have the assistance we do, even if it is small.
It is not just ‘play practice’. Without it, I would likely not be as strong as I am. Acting and doing tech for shows has taught me how to manage my time, and how to roll with the changes. The best-laid plans in the theater are never what the audience sees on stage. If everything goes right, everything is wrong.
I know the drama department will always hold a special place in my heart. Even when you step back for a while, it always returns for a visit.
As I am currently heading into tech week for my first ever college production, I am both relieved and sad. I am ready to catch up on sleep, have time for homework and am looking forward to having free time. I am sad that I will not see my cast and my crew every day. I am going to miss our conversations, our hangouts and the time we have spent together.
I believe this will be the last time I direct a college production, but I am thankful for the experience this production has granted me, even if there were ups and downs. Like I said, if everything goes right, everything is wrong.
I look forward to seeing my cast in the spotlight. I know they’ll make me proud no matter how they do.
It is not just ‘play practice’. It is an escape, a getaway, a memory box made. It is stress, it is happiness, it is the in between. It isn’t just ‘play practice’, it is friendship, it is cooperation, it is teamwork. Oh, and by the way, it is rehearsal.