“There are some things that people who never do theater don’t understand, like the excitement and nerves of opening night. They don’t understand how many times you have to make up the words as you’ve gone along because you’ve forgotten them. The bond you all develop at the last few rehearsals. The anticipation during the director’s speech. Trying to stay quiet backstage, but ending up laughing at least once.”
When most people think about theater, they think of a bunch of kids coming together and just performing a show, but when I think of it, it means so much more. I have practically grown up on stage, and performing is just a part of my life now. I was in my first show when I was five, so I have been in theater for seven years. Something about it just amazed me: how a group of totally different strangers could come together and in a span of a few months could go on to perform something amazing.
My connection to performing has always been a special thing in my life. When you’re on stage, you transform. You’re not yourself in the theater anymore, you’re someone else, somewhere else. It is an escape. You forget about getting a 70% on that test. You forget about that kid making fun of you in the hallway. You forget about the argument you and your friend got into. Reality seems to halt, giving you a chance to be someone else and not worry about what is “actually” happening. I’m not the best at being confident when I first meet people. I’m usually pretty shy the first few times I talk to them, but when I get on that stage, none of that seems to matter.
Growing up with theater has taught me so many things: you don’t always get the parts you want, you are going to have to listen to authority if you want it to turn out right, six to eight hours of rehearsal really isn’t that much time, your friends are going to have to wait until hell week is over, and no matter how much you hate makeup, it’s makeup or being a ghost. No matter how big the cast is, you will always come together as a big family during the several hour dress rehearsals, tech rehearsals, and performances. You can be yourself when you’re there, and there’s always something to talk about, like that annoying kid at your school that no one else has met because none of them go to your school, but they all hate for you. You make so many friends of different ages doing so many different things like helping a little kid learn their lines, or an older kid helping you with your makeup. You always seem to find your group of friends. No one is quick to judge, and if you need help with your lines, there’s always someone to help you. Everyone helps each other, and there is no better feeling than a show going perfectly after hours and hours of rehearsals and non-stop work.
What goes on behind the curtain is one of the most important things in creating the magic and moving between settings. The stage crew doesn’t get enough credit for all of the things they do to help the production come to life. So many of the things that appear on stage are made possible by the stage crew’s endless work. So many people are involved in so many ways behind the scenes: lighting crew, spotlights, sound crew, stage managers—and that’s just during a show. There are also set painters, costume designers, choreographers, directors, and so many more people who help put the show together.
Though I’m almost always on stage, I also help behind the scenes. I’ll meet for several hours to paint the set, and usually my whole family will be there too. Many people don’t notice the backstage crew, and I guess they aren’t meant to be noticed, but they play a huge part in shows. They change sets, manage props, and help with quick changes. Quick changes are basically what they sound like, but what they really mean is like ten second changes. Usually the characters with quick changes wear a leotard or something under their costume so they can make it easier. The stage crew or some cast member will wait in the wings with the costumes, and when the actor walks off, the crew helps her/him take off their costume and into their new costume before they usually walk back on.
There are some things that people who never do theater don’t understand, like the excitement and nerves of opening night. They don’t understand how many times you have to make up the words as you’ve gone along because you’ve forgotten them. The bond you all develop at the last few rehearsals. The anticipation during the director’s speech. Trying to stay quiet backstage, but ending up laughing at least once. Growing up in theater, you form a special kind of relationship with the people around you. You’re always joking around, singing Broadway show tunes, or talking about those times when you made a mistake on stage, like tripping over a chair, falling off a table, or making your friends laugh and break character. The crew and cast fooling around backstage during scenes. The frantic quick changes. Rushing to the other side of the stage after a scene for another entrance. Hurrying to put the finishing touches on your hair and makeup when they call “five minutes!” Learning the words and dances to songs you’re not in. Singing in your dressing room while changing costumes. Calling each other by your character name. And during the last show, you’re probably going to end up in tears at least once. At the last performance of one of the shows I was in, I had to carry makeup wipes in my pocket in case anybody had mascara dripping down their face.
If you grow up performing, you find comfort in being on stage or involved in productions. There are so many things that being a “theater kid” has taught me, like to never stop working and to do my best no matter what part I get, or to keep on pushing through, even if it feels like something will never end. So many people think theater kids are stuck-up and only care about how they look, their voice, and what parts they get, and that they stress over the tiniest details for their auditions, but those are the stereotypes. There are a few kids like that, but the majority of us are the opposite. We find comfort in being on stage, not stress. We don’t care what we look like when we show up to rehearsals, as long as we are wearing something we can dance in and have our hair out of our faces, and we don’t care what parts we get, as long as we’re part of the show. As much as we complain, we all love the stage, the costumes, the makeup, and everything about being a part of a show.