5 Life Lessons I Learned from Theatre
1. Learning to juggle. A practical lesson first. As a Stage Manager/Dancer/Actor/Singer/Blogger/Reluctant Day Jobber, I can accomplish in ½ a day what most people take ½ a week to complete. In college, I overloaded on classes every semester and attended rehearsal until 10PM most nights. Now, I go to the office from 8AM – 5PM and then rehearsal until 11PM when I’m in production (9PM if I’m lucky enough to be working on a children’s production. Sorry, a “young adult” production, as they like to be called.). I don’t have time for nonsense. I draft and color-code “to do” lists, I prioritize efficiently, and I complete tasks with excellence. This is a life skill that can be carried over to any vocation, whether you dream to plan weddings or climb the corporate ladder. The ability to not only get many things done, but to get them done well (My definition of well is to complete a task above and beyond the median expectation) will get you noticed in all the rights ways while acting/singing/dancing on Broadway or sitting in a cubicle.
Theatre taught me to understand and be proud of what I bring to the table. Confidence, self-respect, and appreciation for my own self-worth were all valuable life lessons for the shy 7th grader who sometimes ruled my inner thoughts. But it also taught me to understand, respect, and appreciate what others bring to the table.
Theatre is a place where the intrinsic value of teamwork and humility are incontrovertible. Everyone on the team is necessary (a princess); therefore, there is no time or place for egos or demands for attention (no princesses allowed).
It should be noted that my original title for this lesson was Don't Be a Jerk. I changed it for the version sent out by Curtain Call, but I feel that here I can be a bit more blunt. As a Stage Manager, I cannot think of anything that grinds my gears more than a fellow theatre artist who acts out simply because they've decided that they deserve special treatment. Jerks don't get referrals. Jerks don't get positive reviews. Jerks don't get rehired. DON'T BE A JERK!
3. Be Excellent to Each Other. In the immortal words of Bill and Ted during their excellent adventure (please say at least some of you get that movie reference), theatre teaches participants to “be excellent to each other”. Theatre, when approached correctly, has produced and shaped some of the most excellent people I know. Show folk are the best
folk. Outsiders don’t get it until they take the plunge and sign on to their first production, and then they never want to leave.
The sense of community at a good theatre company supports an environment where kids grow into remarkable human beings. They’re not only confident about their talent, but also smart as whips, dedicated, disciplined, respectful, and accepting of others. Let’s face it; kids (and adults, for that matter) can be mean. But I have never seen kids love and care for each other so well until I started stage-managing children’s (excuse me, Young Adult) theatre.
This is applicable to adults as well. Theatre folk take care of each other, end of story.
Sometimes trying again means finding a different, unplanned path, which is coincidentally how I discovered my current passion, stage management. The point being, growing some thick skin makes you tough and determined. Theatre pushes you to try harder than you ever thought you could.
Now get up and go audition. If you're not show-folk, then maybe this article will encourage you to become an arts advocate. Every theatre needs an audience supporting the people onstage and backstage. If you're a parent, I beg you to consider enrolling your kids in a summer program. You will be amazed at what they learn and how they grow. Help them find their bliss!