5 Life Lessons Theatre Taught Me
As a child, I would attend a local community theatre to see their comedic Children’s Theatre productions. I would sit in awe as I watched characters from my books come to life in the funniest ways. Although I shied away from the meet-and-greet portion of the show, I would leave the theatre happy, singing my favorite songs the rest of the week.
As luck would have it, I was able to join the cast of two local theatre productions now as a post-grad. I eagerly slipped into my roles and savored my experience on the other side of the audience. Instead of hiding behind my mom as the characters signed autographs, I became the characters that the children lined up to meet. This magical transformation reminds me of how fortunate I am to have theatre at every stage in my life.
Along the way, theatre has taught me these 5 important life lessons:
1. We are all mentors.
Regardless of whether you play the hero or villain, children line up to get your autograph in the end. What do we have in common? We all stood up on that stage and put ourselves out there. We become mentors for the younger generation. No matter your actions—whether you’re on stage or not—children will look up to you and imitate what they see. This reminds me of how careful I must be when setting an example.
2. You will be forgiven for mistakes.
A flubbed line or missing prop hardly phases the audience. Although it may seem like a big deal to the actor, the audience forgives quickly. Some big mistakes even get a laugh and cut down the fourth wall to remind actors and audience members alike that we are all human. In life, we make mistakes that may feel like the end of the world, but to another person may be just a small speed bump. I am constantly practicing forgiving myself, especially in this competitive world.
3. Find your audience.
One great thing about this theatre is the cabaret-style seating. Audience members reap the benefit of BYOB and have their very own picnic while watching the show. A Sunday matinee may feature several tables of parents enjoying mimosas with friends which can understandably make the humorous bits of the show that much funnier to them. Then there are early morning Saturday shows when most of the audience is still waking up. That same line that got a kick out of the Sunday crowd may elicit a quiet giggle at best.
I’ve seen a similar trend in my everyday life. The same friends I spent my childhood with may not fit my schedule or be the best company for this stage of life. We may not jive as well as we used to, share the same humor, or be on the same page anymore. New friends may be my mimosa audience. In psychology, I learned that proximity has a lot to do with friendship. Those people we spend more time with due to work or hobbies can quickly become our new closest friends.
We also tend to meet people with similar interests now that we are out of school. Those we meet at work or on the weekends are more likely to share the same values and hobbies and will naturally become a friendship built on commonalities. As we grow more self-aware, it is okay to make new friends and not see others as often.
4. Put aside your fears.
I have been performing since I was five years old, but I still cringe when I need to sing onstage. Last weekend, while singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” my voice cracked and my heart started racing. When I looked out into the audience, however, I saw children up out of their seats dancing and singing along. Much like being forgiven for our mistakes, we can’t hide from our shortcomings. Instead we should start embracing the challenges life offers us and giving it our best, and being okay with the best that we have to offer.
5. We are all children at heart.
I thought of also phrasing this as “fart jokes are still funny.” Often, the biggest laugh we get is during a fart sound effect or a well-delivered raspberry. These jokes do not discriminate: parents are laughing along with their children. Parents are the first to come up to us to express how much fun they had and ask about our upcoming show. We all need to laugh—a lot! Though we are adults now, we can’t forget the child that still lives inside of us.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]
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