An Open Letter: Highschool Theatre

Jyothi Cross

I thought long and hard about what to write about this week, like I have had no inspiration for anything unique but I was scheduled in so there was no escape. I really wasn't sure what to write about, and then I competed in a band competition at school. A few weeks before that I took part in our school production of Sweeney Todd and I realized something:

School theatre is toxic. 

It's such a nasty environment for young people to grow up in because people are never fully honest.

So here's my open letter, to all the people who tell you to stop being yourself when you do school theatre.

It starts as a little complaint, they tell you to tone it down a bit. Maybe in a jokey way. Then you start seeing scowls behind backs, whispers. They insult you to your face because you're showing them up. A 'flamboyant' personality becomes a threat, and you hear whispers in the Green Room about how someone else deserves that part, or someone else would be better.

I know, I've been one of those whisperers, and I've been one who's been whispered at. But why are we so afraid of simply supporting each other?

And this is why I raise my right finger - because it's taken me a long time to build up my self-confidence to the point where I can make myself look like a fool on stage all for the sake of a show. It has also taken me a long time to realize that the people who were given the parts which I complained about were chosen for a reason, teachers don't simply pick names out of a hat, and it doesn't make sense to question their choices - after they've directed around 20 plays at your school. So, when you call someone 'embarrassing' because they dance about and have fun, remember there is a person on the other end of that line, who was chosen for a specific reason and who has worked their butt off to try and get up there.

I need to remember that too. Because so many have it ingrained in us that other actors are competition, you can't work harmoniously with someone who gets a better part than you, but instead we just need to own it. We need to own our parts, our stories, our fun.

Of course, it feels like such a lie, that the ensemble is just as important as the lead, but ensemble simply means you fit into the puzzle in a different way. You're allowed to go for it, you're allowed to own your role even if you're Villager #24. You just have to raise your right finger, and solemnly swear:

That whatever they say about you, you don’t care.