Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Importance of Drama (and a play!)

When I think back to high school, there are two classes that stand out as being the most influential. They taught me the most about life, myself, other people, and how to make sense of the world around me.

My role this weekend. Aren't I an adorable 50's mother?
The first class is English/writing— obviously this is a big deal to me. But a very close second was drama class. When my parents signed me up for the drama class at Providence Fine Arts Center when I was 12, I was excited, but I had no idea how the class would impact my life. In fact, although I use my English skills every day in my job, drama taught me some of the most foundational concepts of how to function as an adult. These include...

Conversation skills. I’ve always been very shy, concerned about what other people think of me, and nervous about saying anything for fear of sounding stupid. When I joined drama class, the pressure was off— I had memorized lines, which meant I could always be right! However, we also played improv games, but I fit in naturally with those, since the other actors were all working together to create a scene. As the year progressed, I realized that conversation was the same way— we were a team working toward the goal of having social interaction. Through learning to ad-lib, I learned how to converse.

Empathy. I’ve always been a sensitive person, deeply feeling other people’s emotions, but drama taught me to get into someone else’s head in a way I never had before. As I read through my lines, I was always thinking, “Why does she respond this way? What is she thinking? How is this different from the way I would respond?” Thinking about your character helps you understand other people’s perspectives in greater depth than you would otherwise.

Christian as the son I don't talk about...
Fearlessness. Again, the structure of acting gave me a place to practice my self-confidence. When I strode onstage, playing a cocky tomboy, I had no choice but to present myself as being completely in charge. Again, this quickly seeped over into my improv as well. My second year of drama, my parents were shocked to see me stand up in front of a 200-person crowd and introduce a play that I had written, using no script at all. This from a girl who five years ago had broken into sobbing hysterics when told to make a speech just in front of her three siblings.

Teamwork. In a play, there is an element of teamwork unlike anything else. Every single person onstage is either contributing or detracting from the experience, and acting requires you to rely on other people in a much deeper way than most activities. (Especially since we never had understudies— this makes each person literally irreplaceable!) The trust and sense of community that can grow among of a group of actors is unparalleled.

There are a lot of other benefits— creativity and imagination-building, responsibility, hard work, conflict resolution, being able to analyze a situation, trust, thinking on your feet, and dozens more. I can’t emphasize enough what an impact drama had on my life.

That’s why my brother Christian and I, for the second year in a row, are producing and acting in a play as a fundraiser for Providence Fine Arts Center, where we took classes. Last year we raised enough money to allow the center to update some of its gear and buy the rights to perform Beauty and the Beast Jr. It’s amazing to be able to give back so that other kids can experience the life lessons of drama for themselves.

This year our play, called The Big Red Scare, is a film noir screwball comedy, featuring a Soviet spy, a sly jewel thief, a wannabe film noir hero, and lots of crazy hijinks! For those of you in the St. Louis area, we’re performing the play this Saturday and Sunday— you should come! Here’s a brief rundown of the info:

WHEN: Saturday, August 6th, at 6:00pm, and Sunday, August 7th, at 3:00pm

WHERE: Lifespring Community Church, 1615 Thoele Road, St. Peters, MO 63376

WHAT TO BRING: The show is completely donations-based, so pay what you want. We’ll also have homemade cake and lemonade for sale during intermission.

For those of you who don’t live in St. Louis, if you’re interested in donating money to this cause, please see the link above. 100% of the money will go to Providence Fine Arts Center’s drama troupe. 

I’m thankful that my parents signed me up for drama class 15 years ago— I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. Hope to see a lot of you at the performance this weekend!


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