Tonight I attended the high school graduation party of one of my former children’s theatre kids, and It made me feel incredibly old (I turned 30 this year), This was a kid I used to baby sit who would “read” me “Madeline” (she had the entire book memorized with the correct page turns at around the age of 3) and her first play “Annie” was in the first full length show I directed (the summer after graduating from the same high school she attended.) She was six and the littlest orphan Tessie.
I will never forget the following year when she was Charlie Bates in “Oliver”, another child had spent an entire scene adjusting his vest (putting it on inside out, upside down, twisted and combinations of the three) much to the audience’s amusement. At seven, this young lady was distraught and nearly inconsolable at intermission that the offending child had “ruined MY play” and that she couldn’t go on for the second act. I vividly remember sitting outside on the picnic tables getting her calmed down and convincing her that she was needed and could help save the production. She pulled it together and went on to do a lovely job.
This was the same kid who would be so excited before a performance that she had to run laps around the building to burn off enough of the excess energy and excitement so she could sit still long enough to get her makeup put on without shaking. She was so proud the year she came in and announced that she thought she would be ok, and wouldn’t have to run laps that year.. a very mature nine year old. This lovely young woman will be attending a very prestigious university in the fall, and I am so thrilled for her, I helped her brainstorm for her college essays and talk through her final decision when it came down to two programs. It is amazing to see how hard she has worked and how far she has come.
I love these success stories, and remembering back to my much earlier days as an inexperienced recent high school graduate who was planning to be a government major and go to law school. I did summer theatre because it was fun. I had started acting with the program when I was six and it was such an important part of my summer that I wanted to give back and give other kids the same opportunities.
If someone had told me at age eighteen that twelve years later I would be working in this industry, having been steadily employed in the arts as a film maker, theatre director and theatre educator since graduating from college (with a degree in Theater and Dance) I would have told them they were crazy. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had experiences in many different parts of the country from Maine, Massachusetts, Texas… I am headed to New York on Tuesday for the summer and then heading to the mid-west to start a new job in Cincinnati, Ohio in the fall.
I have had a pretty crazy journey and have had some fantastic opportunities because I was not afraid to take a leap and try something new. My advice to all the recent grads is to trust yourself, and do not be afraid to deviate from your plan… It is important to have an idea of what you want to do; but know there are many different ways to get to your endgame, and frequently you learn much more from the journey than from the destination.
As a child, my favorite book was “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney, and I love the advice that little Alice gets from her grandfather after she announces that when she grows old, “I too will go to far away places, then come home to live by the sea”. Her Grandfather tells her “that is all vey well, but there is a third thing you must do. You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” The sentiment in this really strikes a chord for me… I am still in the “going to far away places” part of my journey, as for making the world more beautiful? I am hoping that helping foster a love of theatre in kids will help to fulfill that part of the equation, as for the rest? I am still figuring it out.
So to the Class of 2013, go forth, explore, make the world a more beautiful place and remember, you can always return home.