5 Skills I Learned In Theatre School That Have Nothing To Do With Acting
The graduating class of Summer 2017 at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts has launched into its final week of rehearsals for The Drowsy Chaperone. With every sound check, lighting cue and quick change, the vision of the show is coming closer to fruition and I can't help but feel immensely proud of how far we have come as a term since our journey here began two years ago.
As we bid farewell to our school and brace ourselves to face the 'real world', I find solace in the bonds we have created, the stories we have shared (with each other and with audiences) and the life skills we have learned that will stay with us, regardless of the path we choose to follow. (And yes, we also learned about acting.)
I'm not talking about showing up to class on time every day--although as a reformed abuser of the snooze button, learning the value of punctuality was a personal victory of mine. To be a performing arts student requires absolute dedication in all of its forms: commitment to your peers and instructors who rely and depend on you to move forward in the process; to your physical and mental health, which are indispensable to the demands of being a performer; and most importantly, to the work itself. It is difficult to put into words the palpable energy that arises from a group of people united in a dark theatre or rehearsal hall, each fully present and surrendering their complete focus to one common purpose--theatre school taught me that this is where the magic lives.
From L to R: Lizzie Song, Keisha Mowchenko, Katherine Norris, Maïna Belray, Kyra Mastrogiacomo, Ze Mair, Stephanie Ferraro, Sarah Hinding. Photo: Michaela Mar
COURAGE TO FAIL
I am incredibly grateful for the environment our school has provided and continues to foster for its students--a supportive space in which failure is welcomed and regarded as an opportunity for growth. I remember sitting in chorale on my first week of school and being told by our beloved choir director that there is more value in being 'strong and wrong' than to not try at all. Of course, he was referring to the four-part harmonies in a Latin hymn, but the notion stuck with me and was a recurrent theme in several of our classes over the following years. My classmates and I were encouraged to take risks, to show our vulnerability and to fail, time and time again. On our very last day of Voice and Text, we were reminded that uncertainty is the birthplace of opportunity, and I learned that the remarkable thing about failure is our ability to overcome and conquer it.
From L to R: Connor Meek and Kenni Chomyn. Photo: Michaela Mar
The first acting rule and piece of advice that I was taught in Scene Study was to withhold from making judgments about the character I was playing. (This is so much easier said than done when you have a John Patrick Shanley script in your hands.) The truth, I have come to realize, is that the most complex and inaccessible points of view are the ones that offer you the rare advantage to see the world through different eyes. I have grown to believe that studying theatre cultivates an open heart and a receptive mind. It is truly extraordinary, and I have had the privilege of experiencing this many times at the Randolph Academy, to observe two actors playing the same part and tell an audience entirely different stories--it is a necessary reminder that the possibilities are endless.
Theatre leaves much of its content open to interpretation--at its core, however, it is a conversation and a means of communication. By immersing ourselves in its creation, we students are given the opportunity to discover our voice--not only as actors, but also as humans and active members of society. Our training at the Randolph Academy has equipped us with a toolbox of knowledge and the freedom to shape the kind of artists we want to become. For many of us, it has also led us to develop, or at least consider, an outlook on the world and the sort of footprint we want to leave behind.
Maïna Belray. Photo: Michaela Mar
As artists, we are thrown into a crowd of individuals coming from all walks of life and we learn that the only way to coexist is through the practice of mutual support and utmost respect. The theatre is a melting pot of race, religion, class, culture and identity; brought together and unified by the passion that fuels us. It truly is the art that brings people together. I could not be more thankful to have shared the last two years with such a spirited and inspired group of performers--I look forward to watching them soar.
Kyra Mastrogiacomo, Teaghan Young, Mimoza Duot. Photo: Michaela Mar
Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts Graduating Class of Summer 2017