Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When I Grow Up

Being a nineteen-year-old female in America, the small-talk question I am most commonly asked after "Where are you going to school" is "What are you studying?" Luckily enough I have an answer: "I'm doing a double major in English Education and Theatre Education." Usually I slur my words together -something anyone would fall victim to after rattling off the same phrase more than one hundred times- and usually have to repeat myself. That, or people don't want to believe they heard someone level-headed saying they're going  into theatre. But they did.

And I am.

I have found, after enduring such conversations on nearly a daily basis, that those who have dabbled in the arts smile knowingly and remark that it sounds "fun" or "exciting." Those, especially the elders, who have nothing but the patron-perspective try to translate it for their industrial minds: "You must have had a really inspiring teacher." They respond this way every time, and in return I deliver yet another practiced statement. "Actually, no."

After their confusion and timid topic change, I am left to ponder over the anomaly of why teaching theatre has to stem from the actions of those who taught me. In a way they aren't wrong; I designed to be a theatre teacher because I was severely disappointed in what my many theatre teachers "taught" me. From age eleven until entering college at the closing of my eighteenth year I enrolled in acting classes -community and otherwise- hoping and praying to expand my knowledge and skill with regards to the trade. The farthest we ever breached were improv games and audition etiquette. Then we would put on a show.

I appreciated it for the sole reason that I was given another show to put on my resume at the close of each school year, but no one ever pointed out the difference between reciting lines on stage and portraying a character. It never mattered if a message was passed to the audience, so long as we remembered our positioning on stage. I had to propel myself through a tangled forest, learning from trial and error which berries would give me substance behind the proscenium, and which leaves would leave me itchy and flighty. I came to college with the overwhelming knowledge that I was -and am- under prepared for the theatrical world. And as a child raised in a family of homebodies and panicked public speakers, who enrolled for every class she could find, the fault falls to my educators.

Michael J. Fox was a high school dropout. He was good enough as a junior in high school to begin to forge a career in the performing arts. And he forged the career, he sustained the career, and in spite of crippling medical conditions still dabbles in the career. Talent? Yes. But he didn't get there by himself.

That is why theatre education was such an obvious choice; I've always known I'd end up a teacher -I'm not motivated enough to strive for anything else- it was merely a matter of what I would end up teaching. I want to equip students with confidence and technique. I want to prepare them for a life in this field; I want them to be good enough they could go without a degree and stand a chance. I decided to teach theatre so that I could give aspiring actors the information I eagerly yearned for and was constantly denied. I want to do for someone what I always wished had been done for me. I want to do the job no one is doing, even if their title says otherwise. I want to be the change I wish to see in the world.

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