I don’t really know how I discovered acting. Maybe it was the class trip in elementary school to see a stage version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or maybe it was through my parents, who told me that the people in movies and on TV are called actors. However, when I discovered acting at eight years old, I knew that it was something I wanted to do.
From home to the stage
I watched my favorite movies over and over again, and then memorized my favorite scenes so that I could recreate them with my neighborhood friend, little brother, and two year old sister. We would turn our living room into a theater, and usher my parents to their seats on the couch and then we would perform our show. So perhaps out my excitement for for acting, or simply out of sheer annoyance that they had to watch the same play over and over again, my parents decided to get me involved in theater.
I remember my first audition for a local theater company here in Toledo. It was my favorite movie, and one in my repertoire of living room shows, Alice in Wonderland. The group was looking for a large children’s chorus, and planned to cast adults as the lead roles. Being the excited and driven child that I was, I decided I wanted only to be one of the lead roles, and understandably did not get cast. I was devastated. Realizing that I had no idea how theater actually worked, a friend of the family suggested my parents sign me up for a local summer theater day camp, and from that point on I spent just about every childhood summer there.
More than just summer camp
Camp taught me the basics of acting, and I was introduced to all aspects of theater. Before theater camp, I had no idea how much work went into making a production. Having the opportunity to help write a script, build, paint, and design the set, create costumes, learn how to do my own make-up, and act in front of a real audience (no offense mom and dad), was incredibly exciting. But these camp did not just teach me about theater, it also taught me about myself.
Summer theater camp taught me confidence. I was always a bit shy when I was in school, but I found theater to be a way to express myself. There was a type of comfort being around a group of kids who were just like me. I could be myself without fear of not being accepted.
Working with a group of kids my own age was not only fun, but also showed me the importance of teamwork. I understood the importance of everyone’s role in putting on a show, and camp taught me a greater sense of respect toward others.
And then there was rejection; a skill that no kid wants to learn or experience, but, a skill that ultimately leads to a stronger and more determined person. Like in sports, theater can have an enormous amount of disappointment and rejection. Every kid in theater experiences this at some point. The nice thing about camp was that anyone who wanted a role was given some sort of part in the show. However, there were a lot of kids and only a limited amount of “big” roles. So naturally, many kids did not get the parts they wanted. Looking back at this, it was probably one of the best things that could happen. It taught me that life isn’t always fair.
You can work hard and still not get what you want, but that just taught me to work even harder. Theater instilled skills in me that have been beneficial for school, work, and in society. And even more than that, theater camp helped develop an interest and passion for theater that has lasted my entire life. I may not have always gotten the roles I wanted, but I got something better; knowledge, perseverance, friends, and memories that have lasted many years.