BWW Blog: Alyssa Sileo - Love Letters to High School: ACTing Out at GCIT Freshmen Orientation
I can think of only one thing that's better than theatre outreach--and that is using said outreach to welcome freshmen.
GCIT held their Freshmen Orientation on August 24th, 2016, and it was a bounding success. I'm privileged to have been involved in this occasion through ACTing Out, GCIT's social advocacy theatre troupe. We perform many school events, some of which include Out of the Darkness, our school's annual walk for suicide prevention, and S.U.R.E Conference, a colloquium of student performance and presentation concerning social change. We represent our school's dedication to serve our community and embolden our peers.
It's ACTing Out's tradition to perform a show for the freshmen at their Meet & Greet. We'd been rehearsing our monologues and songs for all of August. On the morning of orientation, I woke up feeling like it was the first day of school--maybe it was because it was 6am, maybe because of the pre-planned outfit. I remarked how clearly I remembered the show I saw at my Freshman Orientation, and how those members have since graduated. With a Drama Department that's more like a family of 70 siblings, I know my memories of ACTing-Out-past were like to the replays going on in my friends' heads.
The Orientation Show consists of monologues and songs that we perform to reassure, applaud, and inspire the Freshmen. Troupe members share stories about how cringe-worthy high school moments end up being the times we're made the strongest. I performed a slam-poem-monologue I personally wrote. It's about the many instances Freshmen-Me sat by my computer at 9pm, seized by writer's block, perfectionism, and sleep deprivation. Somehow I got out of those ruts when I began reveling over my luck at being able to have those times. I had learned that high school was "the playground I've been granted to sort it all out on," and that every grievance created a being who would come to smash writer's block and similarly, every other hardship. My favorite line to share with the freshmen (and possibly my favorite line I've written ever) was "And somehow every assignment is becoming love letters to high school." My every belief about high school can be summed up by the sentiment that I now write in honor of the institution I'm proud to call home.
ACTing Out also sang "Home" by Phillip Phillips (a song the Drama Department fervently loves) and an acapella version of "Rise Up" by Andra Day. (I'm STILL singing the alto part in my head. Dah dah dah dah dah. Thanks, ACTing Out.)
A fact often bygone: Theatre can sap you. I ran my slam a number of times before the performance and I was exhausted, as I went through the motions of a story that's very personally potent. Perhaps I was rusty from not being in production or drama class for a while. I knew, though, that the moment the show began and I saw the freshmen, I would get that surge. It got me thinking about how challenging theatre is active theatre, and how if one's given a stage, they had better use it for something, since so many are denied that chance. My troupe was employed with the time slot to tell an audience a message. Many arrows point to say it was delivered.
I believe in places and I believe in people. I believe in GCIT and I believe in freshmen. I have such an appreciation for incoming students. I recall having four years ahead of me in a building I had yet to load with memories and I revere that unfamiliarity. I'm entirely satisfied with my previous years, I wouldn't ask for them back, but I would request four more years in addition. And as for these young adults who will be walking in wide-eyed, I truly respect them, because I know they'll help me, even indirectly, and in turn, I'll be granted opportunities to help them.
I had a difficult time writing this piece, just like how I had a difficult time creating my slam, because I have so many joyous thoughts about the situation, and I feel so strongly about what I want to impart to my audience and my new friends of 2020. It just goes to show what my school has taught me about integrity of my word and the need to act on your experiences. What I felt in the gym on August 24th was a benchmark of my high school career, a celebration of two years past and two years coming.
But as for those who have four years coming, hi, 2020: you're going to shock yourself in a funny way. You're going to see things, and think, "I want to do that," but at that time you will believe you don't possess the capacity to carry out these activities. Or maybe you think those things are just for you to observe and not partake in.
Time will do things to you.
Before ninth grade, I saw high schoolers leading lives of confidence and vivacity and I wanted this for myself. I wanted to walk the hallways backwards. I wanted to take tech week naps in the seats of the house. I wanted to layer inside jokes onto the year until I forgot some, I wanted to perfect dance moves in the corners of classrooms, and I wanted to want to prolong that final bell of each day.
And GCIT 2020: When my friend Dylan and I went around at lunch and asked for your names and academies, you were so gracious and I knew immediately how much heart your class has. And Performing Arts kids: when we took you on the tour of the rehearsal and performance spaces, I couldn't keep myself from absolutely gushing with anticipation over your upcoming seasons. And you accepted my class's drama-kid frenzy, and I hope you know that we will accept whatever you will choose to give us.
At your Freshmen Orientation, before the ACTing Out show began, when you all went to get your snacks outside the gym, my troupe snatched the AUX and screlted "Omigod You Guys" from Legally Blonde and I played Bruiser (the dog), because that's what came on shuffle. And then we did the movie choreographer for "We're All In This Together" from High School Musical, because we know it. And on the (indoors) tour, I (purposely) wore my sunglasses, because I felt like it. And I blathered about past shows when I stepped into the theatre and black box because I needed to. And I saw people doing undaunted things like these when I was taking my own first glances at GCIT. I hope you all know that soon you'll be dancing in front of your classmates, and you'll be wearing T-shirts about things you care about, and you'll be so familiar with these halls that it's no longer a matter of if but when, no longer a matter of why but how, always matters of yes and thank you. My only wish for you is that you come to write love letters to high school in whatever medium you see fit.
For the large majority of current ACTing Out members, this was their first event. (Raises hand!) This success is the teller of the fantastical year we're opening up. We'll make some noise with my fellow visionaries of the Leader Squad, a wonderfully thoughtful teacher as facilitator, and a troupe of movers, shakers, creators, and doers. People I'm proud to have seen me while I was a freshman. What I adore about ACTing Out is that we don't sugarcoat but we prioritize hope. We're honest about how grand things are. We let all Cheetahs and otherwise know that life is better when you sing about it.
ACTing Out 2016-2017!
I was elated to put on this shirt that early morning!
The Leader Squad of ACTing Out 2016-2017, from left to right: Dylan, me, Kelly