It’s a Friday night, and many adolescents are heading to the movies, mall, or high school football game with friends. Theater kids, however, are preparing for a much different weekend activity.
Richmond is home to several impressive theater companies, and they are not just for adult actors. CharacterWorks and SPARC are two of Richmond’s best-known theater programs exclusively for students, and companies like Virginia Rep often do shows that involve children as well.
I am no stranger to the theater world, as I grew up performing in shows and film projects since the age of 8. Nowadays, I don’t do many theater projects, but I do enjoy acting in a short film or other piece when I have time. Acting has become a hobby, something to do in my spare time. As I have grown older, I now truly appreciate the benefits being a theater kid have brought to my life. Today, I want to share five life skills I picked up during my time in theater!
1.How To Handle Disappointment
There were many times when I wanted a role so desperately. Sometimes, I would get a callback for the role, and by the end of the day, it would be down to one other girl and me. I would spend the hours leading up to the cast list announcement lamenting, wondering, and visualizing both positive and negative outcomes.
Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get what we want, no matter how hard we work or how much we think we deserve it. Learning how to handle disappointment maturely at a young age is so important. When I did not get the casting outcome I hoped for, I had to adopt a positive and humble attitude. I wasn’t always perfect with this, but experiencing disappointment taught me to not feel entitled. Life does not always go the way we hope. Sometimes we have to recover from not having our expectations met.
2.The Value of Hard Work
I can’t count all the times in theater when I was required to do something for a show that didn’t come naturally: the harmonies I couldn’t master, the notes I couldn’t hit, the dances I couldn’t get, the accents that sounded less than realistic. I had the opportunity to work with directors, musical directors, and choreographers who didn’t accept mediocrity. If something was not up to par, they told us.
I spent hours and hours working on the skills I needed to perfect because I learned quickly that some things do not come to you without hard work. But let me tell you, there was no better feeling than seeing my hard work pay off when, on opening night, I finally accomplished the goal that I had been working toward for all those weeks! Having to work hard early on has carried over into my adult life–in school and in my career. I know that when I put in half the effort, I am not going to be nearly as successful.
The theater group I participated in always had the same schedule: classes on Tuesday or Thursday, rehearsals Friday evening and all day Saturday, and then usually 10 performances of every show. There were many weekends when I did not want to go to rehearsal because I was tired after a long week of school. Sometimes I had to miss a friend’s birthday party or school dance because of the schedule. I still went anyway, and I pushed through even on the days I didn’t want to be there. Placing importance on discipline early on has made it a habit for me. I don’t skip out on tasks or appointments just because I don’t feel like completing them.
When we went to rehearsal, we arrived prepared, with our lines memorized, script in tow, and appropriate clothing. We didn’t talk or text during dance or music rehearsal because it got us off track. In addition, we arrived for every rehearsal and show five minutes before we were required to be there. Although these things may seem insignificant, the repetition of being on time, prepared, and focused helped me develop a keen sense of professionalism. I learned the importance of showing up on time (because being late is disrespectful), being prepared, and acting graciously and respectfully towards others.
5.Confidence (Even When You Don’t Feel It)
Auditioning was scary. Callbacks were scary. Going on stage and doing a dance I suddenly forgot the steps to was scary. In theater, you learn quickly to put a smile on your face even if you’re not feeling it. Helpful life skill? Yes. When I walk into a situation and am nervous or less than thrilled to be there, I know how to put a smile on and “fake it till I make it!”
Being a theater kid was fun, but it also truly shaped me into the person I am today. I am grateful for the years I spent developing important skills that have undoubtedly helped me as an adult. Although theater is not for everyone, I encourage you to get your children involved if they are interested. You will be pleased with the outcome!