I Used to Live in the Theater

My mom is an actress. She doesn't act much anymore, but when I was a kid, I came along to all of her performances. She captivated audiences with her monologues, and when it came to the one woman shows she wrote and produced herself, she moved people to tears with her soliloquies. I was her little helper, making sure she was all set up and sitting in the audience. Well, I thought I was a helper, but perhaps I was just a bit of moral support. Either way, that is what sparked my interest in live performance art. I wanted to be just like my mom, telling a story while the whole world listened.

So, I began acting as well. Nothing professional--- just a few school or summer camp plays and musicals. I had a lot of fun. I had even more fun once I started playing actual characters instead of blending in with the ensemble. However, all good things come to an end, or transition into something a little different.

In high school, we got a new drama teacher. There had been a long standing rule that, when it comes to high school theater, not everyone that auditions is guaranteed some kind or role, but that was a rule that had never been enforced until she was in charge. She was the first person to tell me that she couldn't see me in any role. I didn't take it that hard, however, because I also couldn't see myself in any role. Into The Woods was a musical that I was not familiar with at the time--- the movie musical version hadn't even come out yet. I auditioned purely because I wanted to be a part of the production in some way. I just didn't expect to not even get a role in the ensemble. Who would've expected that there would be no ensemble in the first place?

So, since I couldn't act in the show, I asked about other ways I could be a part of the show. I didn't want to be in costuming since I wasn't confident in my sewing enough to dress someone other than myself. I didn't really want to be a part of set construction because I had gotten my desire to handle power tools out of my system when I was building houses with my Girl Scout Troop several months earlier. So, I became a part of the crew. More specifically, I was given the position of Stage Manager. In the previous school performance, had tried my hand at being the Assistant Stage Manager. And, since the Stage Manager before I was involved was a senior, it was decided that it was a good chance to officially hand over the reigns. So, that's how I became the Stage Manager, and the former Stage Manager became the Assistant Director.

I absolutely loved the job. Sure, it was a lot of hard work and it was stressful--- it was practically like taking another class on top of my already rigorous coursework. But, it was rewarding to see the show come together at the end and be able to say, “I did that.” From then on, I was absolutely hooked.

I was the Stage Manager for a total of four shows, and I had a hand in another two shows, teaching younger students how to be a Stage Manager and effectively handing over the reigns while I, instead, took on the role of Assistant Director. I never counted how many awards we won for High School Musical Theater at the Blumeys, but I remember we took home two to four each year. But, that was just what I did with my school, as a student. Outside of school, I volunteered at the Children's Theater of Charlotte, teaching younger kids about acting and helping to put on the same summer musicals that I was a part of as a kid. I also took a class through the Children's Theater to learn about all the different behind-the-scenes aspects of a production, and as a part of that class, I helped to run another summer camp performance. I interned with The Blumenthal, working with a Senior Stage Manager through the four different performance spaces. I learned how Broadway shows travel to different theaters and how musicians book a performance space, as well as everything the in-house Stage Manager needs to be in charge of when it comes to setting up and running performances, and overseeing performance spaces as a whole. Not only that, but I interned at The Greene Space, a performance space in Harlem. Furthermore, while I was in New York, I volunteered at a church, running the technical aspects of the church service as well as ensuring a smooth and pleasant viewing experience for those watching the sermons remotely. I did all of this while I was still a high school student.

In my senior year, I wanted to focus more on this work in an official self-study capacity. This was an option that my school offered, and I even used the plans and proposal of an upperclassman, who did the same thing a year prior, since he was the student who was in charge of lights for all of the school's productions, to inform and make my own proposal. I wanted to combine technical theater with more engineering, and create some innovative methods of special effects that the school could use in future shows. My idea was denied, but that's a story for another day. The point was, I felt really discouraged by it. I pulled away from theater and focused on engineering, ultimately deciding to fully buy in to Computer Science.

Life has a funny way of throwing you a lot of curve balls. It points you in one direction, and you get excited to follow the path, but then it'll put up a road block, forcing you to reroute yourself. But, I'm glad I was open and flexible when it came to the journey. It led me to new experiences that, otherwise, I never would've attempted. And, most importantly, I enjoy where I am now, and I'm excited to see what's next. That's what's most important, at the end of the day.

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