In a sort of organized panic I scrounge up memories, personal teaching experiences or other people’s experiences as to why Theatre for Youth is important. I try to find good reasons as to why people should donate to this project. For me it feels obvious. That sounds pretentious but hear me out. There’s a bigger picture. The activist voice, that fueled my “Letters to the Editor” back in Texas so many years ago, is yelling “why wouldn’t you give to a company that builds confidence and creativity in our youth through interactive theatre”? Then I remember that those experiences that have made me who I am today are deeply rooted in my being and I cannot expect people to see that. In other words, I’m being too vague. Everyone has their own experiences. Time to spill my guts.
Here’s the experience of one Texas raised gal…
Growing up I was ‘four-eyed” by 2nd grade, double chinned through 6th grade, plagued with an eating disorder through 7th grade, back braced for scoliosis in 7th and part of 8th grade and brace faced through Freshman year of college. I did not bloom overnight. It took several years. Several years of bullying. Girls pretending to be my friend so they could cheat off my paper, boys calling me fat because I didn’t have a boyfriend, girls starting physical and degrading verbal fights with me and I still wanted to be their friend because I didn’t have the confidence to walk away. Eventually, it was theatre and music that allowed me to escape that world and heal so that I could do it all again the next day. Playing Grace in a production of Annie Jr I experienced what it was like to be “beautiful”, clever, nurturing and confident. Singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” a capella taught me incredible courage. Tackling the darkness of Lady Macbeth in a production of Macbeth Jr taught me that evil has a weakness. I remember my parents worrying about the bullying at school but it turned out okay because theatre and music saved me. The theatre allowed me to be me when the whole student body saw something else. I don’t think I would have survived had I not had theatre and music.
Now some people are able to afford to put their children through dance class or summer camp. My upbringing depended on the community. I did community theatre, church choir, school choir, drama club, music theory club, music memory UIL, and Poetry and Pros UIL. It was all possible because it was free to me. It was community driven either through the school specifically or through the city. I couldn’t afford anything else.
How did this help me as a human?
By high school, I was able to be stronger than those that bullied me. I learned from the characters I played onstage. My work on those characters taught me discipline and extreme focus on goals. I was too busy being a success. I had bigger fish to fry. People stopped bothering me because they saw I didn’t have time to listen or react. I reeked of confidence and it was intimidating but I was never cocky. My humble beginnings are ingrained. I continue to fight for the voice that isn’t heard and the people that are not seen. Theatre provides visibility in a world driven by fear.
I am producing and directing a show that opens a door to the youth. A door that gives them a “stage” of opportunity. A young person that deals with bullies may never know what it feels like to have no fear. Suddenly they’re given the part of Hercules and they have to “pretend” to be brave. They then realize it is possible to be the thing they feared and others support it. How do they support it? They applaud and cheer as they walk about the stage fighting monsters with the cast of Jason and the Argonauts. They feel a new permanent amount of worth. It’s a tangible gratification that sticks because it connects with emotion and real life experience. This is something iPads cannot produce.
In an effort to mirror my upbringing that my community made possible for me I want to give something back but I need your help.
Help us reach our $5000 goal and I will make sure that 20 seats to our opening performance go to young audience members that cannot normally afford live theatre. They will receive a Festival Button AND a ticket to our show. That is a $15 value. The button will allow them to experience other festival opportunities as well.
I do not produce shows like this for financial profit. I will be lucky to cut even but I don’t care. I do this because it shaped me to be who I am today and I know other people need that kind of shaping. I am proud of the person I have become because of the arts. I am proud of the youth I have taught because of the arts. I believe with all my heart and soul that this is what makes a good human. This is what allows people to be who they are no matter what. Theatre kills fear and creates heroes. We need more heroes.
Today will be marked on the calendar as the day we let the world know that we are producing our first show! This day will be celebrated with nail biting and cookie eating! What will become of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS! Will there be a cast? Will there be costumes? How many artists does it take to put up an hour long interactive musical for kids on a shoe string budget? STAY TUNED!