When you say the words ‘theatre nerd’ people immediately have a stereotype in mind: a very flamboyant, loud, obnoxious kid who is constantly smiling and singing. However, that stereotype is anything but true. Theatre kids are some of the most welcoming, accepting individuals because through the portrayal of many different characters in various settings, they are able to develop an understanding of the true diversity this world has to offer. Whether that diversity is represented by skin color, economic background, or sexual orientation, theatre kids have witnessed it all through their theatrical exposure. I’ve been involved in theatre since I was very young. Throughout high school, I was always moving from one show to the next either as an actor, a stage manager, or a technician. While I chose not to study theatre in college, the lessons I learned through performing will stick with me forever as I use my theatre knowledge every day. Here are the eight things that theatre has taught me:

1. How to be empathetic

Theatre allows performers to take on roles from plenty of different backgrounds. It allows us to experience things that we would not necessarily encounter in our own lives: war, rape, extreme poverty, varying religions, as well as many other situations that give us a broader perspective on the world. We learn to appreciate people of other backgrounds, as we now have a greater understanding of their emotional hardships, therefore increasing our ability to be empathetic.

2. How to appreciate collaboration

It takes actually getting involved in the behind the scenes aspect of theatre to truly grasp how much goes into just one show. A good show is not solely due to the performance of the actors, but also to the props, lighting, set, costumes, and everything in between. Being in theatre has really given me the chance to appreciate the little things, as I realized that small or large, everyone has something necessary to bring to the table.

3. How to have great conversations with the elderly

Okay, at first you may not be able to relate to this one, but hear me out. My grandpa has dementia and it’s getting to the point where he doesn’t know who I am nor anything that has happened in recent years. However, oddly enough, he can talk about life from those years, when I was 15, like it was yesterday. Because of this, I often struggle to connect with him. I just got the chance to visit him this month and we connected like we did when I was younger, strictly thanks to old musicals. We sat and sang songs from 42nd Street and Oklahoma, considering he was able to remember every word. Having knowledge pertaining to musicals spanning the century allows us to share commonalities with older generations whose lives were so different than our own. This connection alone should be reason enough for everyone to learn about a few good musicals.

4. How to deal with nerves

Regardless of how big the crowd is, getting up and performing in front of a group of people is terrifying. No matter how many times I told myself there’s no reason to be nervous, every time the stage manager called places, my stomach always dropped to the same place. While getting scared was inevitable, I learned how to channel my nerves, and let the pressure make me better.

5. How to be comfortable with vulnerability

Whether it be a comedy or a drama, when you’re on stage you’re expected to give your all to your character. A lot of the time this means talking, walking, and acting differently than you normally do. Naturally, stepping out of our comfort zone like this makes us feel extremely vulnerable, especially when there’s an audience watching. Nothing is more terrifying than reading your part in a show for the first time and realizing that there’s a kissing scene or a part where you give birth or do any other equally embarrassing action. However, in truly leaving yourself at the door and becoming someone else, you experience pure vulnerability, and nothing is more freeing.

6. How to manage my time wisely

Nothing says stress like rehearsing until 11 at night with a calculus test the next day AND your opening night on Thursday. Being in theatre has taught me how to prioritize and get things done efficiently. With this enormous pressure that many of my peers not in theatre weren’t currently facing, I actually excelled because I was able to put my phone down, not goof off, and really get to work because I knew if I didn’t, my performance would suffer otherwise. This ability is one that I have carried with me to college and will continue to use for the rest of my life.

7. How to deal with being told "no"

In theatre, you are told no about 50 times more than you are ever told yes. While, at first, rejection hurts like no other, you eventually let these no’s roll right off your back. I was always a person that needed to be accepted. Thankfully, theatre allowed me realize that just because someone says no, whether that be a casting director, a college, or a boy, that doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. Rejection isn’t always personal, and I’m so glad I had the chance to realize that.

8. How to think on your feet

Whoever came up with ‘the show must go on’ was not messing around. During a performance, if someone forgets a line you can’t simply turn to the audience and say “Oh, sorry! Let’s try that again.” You have to quickly ad lib and force the scene to continue as naturally as possible. This needed improvisational skill has helped me in the real world more than anything I’ve ever learned from a high school class.

While knowing every word to Hamilton is definitely a worthy skill, theatre has given me so much more than just a way to entertain. I know that because of my few years in theatre, I can be a better public speaker, a better professional, a better listener, and a better person. For those still out there performing, break all the legs, because you are making the world a more accepting place one show at a time.