How Theatre Shaped My Life Volume Two
This is the second blog post in my series, “How Theatre Shaped My Life.” Here is the first: How Theatre Shaped My Life
I find it quite intriguing that many people who take theatre classes inspire to be or become community servants. What is the connection for them? Or is there one at all?
Upon researching this connection, I found an interesting quote from the abstract, “Toward a Synthesis of Science and Theatre Arts” by Professor, Kay DeMetz, “Science and theatre seek the same goals, in the same way, using the same language. That is, they both seek to understand the natural world through intelligence and insight. Scientists speak of finding“truth”; theatre artists work to present verisimilitude, or similarity to life onstage.” For more information from this abstract, go to https://files.eric.ed.gov
I asked former students of mine to share how theatre shaped their life. Two of the three women here work as community servants, the third aspires to be one.
Here are their thoughts.
Benefits of Theater Education
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When I meet new people, they’re usually shocked to learn that I’m both a biology major and an actress. However, I don’t find it strange at all. For me, theatre is actually necessary for my sanity; every single character I’ve played has influenced my own character, which I’m constantly trying to improve. I believe that these characters have even become an extension of myself. A good example of this can be seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was devastated when live theatre had to be cancelled, but luckily my school theater was able to resume live shows with limited audiences in fall 2020. The very first show I was in post-lockdown was The Living, a show about the Black Plague that struck London in the 17th century. My character, Sarah Chandler, dealt with confusion, death, and loss, just as I was trying to deal with the stress surrounding the public health crisis we found (and still find) ourselves in. Throughout the show, though, I began to see bits and pieces of Sarah’s character that I wanted to adopt as my own in order to support my own character.
When I am on the stage, I am both myself and the character. But in real life, I am wholly myself. I adopt the traits of my characters as my own and mold them to fit my own real-life situations.
I am not a professional actress. I am not even a theatre student. But I know that my experience with theatre and character work will be a huge part of each and every one of my successes in my personal and professional life in the future.
Maybe someday I’ll be a doctor in some prestigious hospital. Maybe I’ll be at the bed of a patient who is on their way out of this life. My strength in that moment will come from Sarah Chandler.
Benefits of Theater Education
This is Katharine Atwood, my oldest daughter. If there is anyone who can share her thoughts on this subject, it is she.
A nurse friend of mine said to me the other day, “We’re like ducks. Most people just see our calm faces and think that’s all that’s happening, but beneath the surface, we’re paddling hard.”
I first learned to do this on stage. You have to keep track of what’s currently going on in the script while anticipating what comes next. All the while making sure you don’t give it away before it’s time for the laugh, the joke, or song.
As a nurse, this skill now translates to a mental list of checked boxes related to vital signs, consent forms, alarm sounds, and a myriad of other details pertaining to the current patient or one down the hallway. While all of this buzzes away in my head, I smile as I walk in the door and sweetly say “Hi! My name is Katharine. I’ll be your nurse today.”
When I was a kid, I was somewhat shy. I didn’t like speaking to strangers. I had trouble with self confidence. Drama helped me to feel comfortable with what I was capable of in a safe place. Playing a character instead of myself, I was able to buffer my shyness. And over time, my extroverted and more confident self began to emerge.
Thanks to theater, I don’t panic when things get off course or start to downward spiral. “The show must go on,” or so they say. I have looked into the frightened eyes of many patients in critical situations and told them as I’m hiding my own fears or insecurities, “You fight like heck. Don’t give up yet.”
I truly believe that if I hadn’t been involved in theater I wouldn’t be the nurse that I am today. I would have never thought that so many skills I learned both on stage and behind would be transferable to healthcare. But they are.
So for my pic I chose the perfect mash up of nurse and actor: me in all my PPE just as the world began to go nuts last year. As I say on the floor, “the theater is leaking again.” I bet you can see it too.
Benefits of Theater Education
My name is Ruth King. I currently have the honor of serving in the United States Navy as a Nuclear Field Machinist Mate and a Sub Vol. This job is known throughout all branches as being a significantly difficult and rigorous profession.
The performing arts and, in particular, Musical Theatre, were instrumental in allowing me to experience the mental and emotional healing I needed to pursue my dream of serving in the military. And every day it helps me renew my strength and zest for life while I am here. I thank God for blessing me with the chance to get to know and practice the performing arts. It honestly helped me become a better and happier human and from there influenced everything in my life I did after.
Doing a difficult or somewhat distasteful task?
Sing! Dance! Afraid of reaching for your dreams? Take a leap of faith! As a very good friend of mine once said, “Everything will still be alright after you audition, even if you fail. There will still be sunshine and trees and oxygen outside. I promise.”
Need to make friends or want to touch people’s lives? Reach out and take a risk! Build touch touchstones and draw others in…include them. Feel as though your world has just ended? Sing! Speak! Write! Act! Dance! Play music!
Express yourself through art!
Art of any kind, especially theater and music, assists the participant in validating and processing through emotion and the human experience. Performing Musical Theater and other art forms is still my ultimate dream.
Meanwhile, every day I wake up happier and more thankful knowing that art, the dramatic and otherwise, is out there, readily available for your active participation and/or delighted spectation! To all who read this, be well and safe.
Thank you Hannah, Katharine and Ruth!
If you’d like to know about my moment when theatre not only shaped but saved me, go to: How Theatre Saved My Life
Did theatre shape your life? Maybe it was another art form? I’d love to hear about and maybe down the road, I’ll feature you too!
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Contact me at DhcBaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net