My niece was in a musical recently and I went to watch it.
It was a group of kids age 10 to 14 and they were delightful. For many, it was their first time on stage.
I sat in the dark of the theatre and blubbered quietly to myself – not just because it was my amazing niece on stage, but it reminded me of what a powerful experience it is to take part in youth theatre.
I was also reminded of this recently when we ran a story about a new Burnaby-based company, Promethean Theatre, led by director Isaac Li.
Isaac Li gave a shout out to his drama teacher at Cariboo Hill Secondary School for setting him on the path he’s on today.
High school was where I got a taste of life on the stage.
I was never the same again.
I signed up to be in the chorus of Carousel at Burnaby North Secondary. The theatre program was led by Alison Schamberger, a jocular British woman who would swoop into the rehearsal room and get everyone charged up with the power of her personality.
I was pretty shy back then, a fact that always shocks my daughter because I’m always chatting up strangers, much to her horror.
But back in high school, it was terrifying to walk into that rehearsal room with much-older kids and try and sing for the audition. I gutted my way through it and landed a spot in the chorus – mostly because there were so few boys who tried out. They were thankful any boys showed up.
That stint in the chorus led to increasingly challenging roles in musicals and plays until I got a solo song in the 1986 BNS production of Grease. I was terrible but as I said, they were just happy any boys auditioned.
The point is not what I did in these productions, but how acting helped me grow as a person – especially my confidence. I also met a whole new cast of friends (pun intended). The kids in theatre were so much different than the jocks on my sports teams. I made friendships that have lasted until this day and truly believe I couldn’t do the work I do today without the skills I picked up in both acting and stage productions.
They taught me about preparation and collaboration, and helped me feel confident speaking in front of groups of people. That kind of confidence is gold in the modern job world.
Which is why I find it frustrating that when cuts are made to high school programs, it’s often the arts (from theatre to band) that are the first to get trimmed. People don’t always see the big picture of how these skills help transform gawky teens into strong adults.
Chris Campbell is editor of the Burnaby Now and the New Westminster Record. Follow him on Twitter @shinebox44.