I saw my first Broadway show on a high school field trip with my French class. Les Miserables. I was fourteen years old. I had seen the show once before with my parents when we lived in England, but that was at least five years in the past, and I didn’t remember much of it. This time would be different. Little did I know at the time, that I would remember this as the day that I decided what to do with my life. The day I knew I wanted to make a life in theater. I was on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the almost three hour show, while classmates around me dozed or chatted to each other.
As the second act started, and lonely Eponine sang her famous solo, “On My Own,” (Stay with me through the cliché part!) I will always remember thinking, “I want to be a part of that world.” Not the world of the French revolution that was re-created on stage—I wanted to be a part of the theater world. The world of actors who got to do this every day. I didn’t like my high school life. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t what I thought it was supposed to be, and I didn’t fit in. But this new world in front of me—theater—that could have a place for me. I wanted to be part of it so badly, so immediately, that I went to work the second I got home from that field trip and became one of the busiest high school students I knew, taking classes in everything from acting to voice to dance.
I’ve enjoyed the comfort of knowing that theater was what I want to do for a good eight years or so, while my peers struggled with that looming question. But my journey as a teaching artist is still a challenge. I grapple with the details. I play a daily game of “what if?” I look (for a LONG time) before I leap. While I’ve been told that I come off as a person who “has her shit together,” I still wonder if I’ve made the right choices.
Finding my way and making my place in the world at large, and the world of theater is constantly on my mind. I spent this weekend in New York catching a couple Broadway shows. In between spectacular pieces of theater, I’ve been re-playing that particular day from my freshman year of high school over and over in my mind. The performances I’ve witnessed this weekend (Bernadette Peters in A Little Nigh Music and Laura Linney in Time Stands Still to name a few) have more than confirmed that I made the absolute right decision. This IS the world for me.
Sometimes I wonder if I gave up on acting by choosing to be a teaching artist. (And when Bernadette Peters is singing “Send in the Clowns” right in front of you, who DOESN’T feel inspired to rush the stage and join her?) But I know I’m doing the right thing. I feel it. My love of theater started with a dream of being an actor, but things change. And that’s okay! As a teaching artist, I have the amazing opportunity to show young people that, while they may feel that there isn’t a place for them in the crazy, messed up world of middle school or high school, there IS one for them here. In theater. In drama class. I’ll make sure of it.