Dear Theater, Thank You For Making Me Human

Dear Theater, Thank You For Making Me Human

That's right, there's a place for my weird to exist freely.

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I'm kind of a weirdo.

I sing in places other than just the shower, and if I don't know the lyrics, I often make them up or repeat the parts I know over and over until the person I am with gives me murder eyes.

I can recite Hamlet's soliloquy from Act III Scene I, and I know lines from Macbeth. I use both of these talents as ways to confuse people at bars that I do not wish to have further interaction with. No, seriously I do. And it works like a friggin' charm most of the time.

I do awful and unfair impressions of Forrest Gump, Janis from "Friends", Patrick Star, Jack Sparrow, Aaron Neville, Elvis Presley, Brittany Spears, Katherine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Christopher Walken and Russel Brand. No, I'm not joking. Well, when I pull them out they are intended to be humorous, but I am serious that I have them up my sleeve.

But you know what's cool about my version of weird? I know you're going to say nothing, and you're too funny.

But in all seriousness, I can use these things to annoy people or make them laugh (sometimes anyway). But the best thing of all is that there is an outlet for it. That outlet is theater.

That's right, there's a place for my weird to exist freely. I know, I know. When I discovered that, I was shocked too.

I mean, when I tell people I've done a lot of theater in my life, they all make the same head titled back "aha" expression - which I've personally never understood. Like, what are they saying? Not everyone has Hamlet's soliloquy still memorized from that Shakespeare class they took early on in college?

It's true though. Since I was in the womb, theater has been a haven for me. Not kidding, my mom was stage managing a play when I was just a growing fetus.

To name a few roles, I've been a wicked step-mother, a male sheriff, a saucy maid, a worn-out stage actress and a vampire vixen. It sounds super cliché, and to some, it might even be extra, but these are lives I was able to imagine myself in. And from each of them, I take a little lesson.

Beyond a haven, theater has also served as an educational tool for me. I have learned some seriously valuable skills, from comfortability with public speaking and posture to thinking on my feet and voice control.

It is because of the life skills theater has given me that I have gotten jobs and internships, that I have formed friendships and relationships. I use what I've learned in some way, every second of every day.

It sounds dramatic, but it's true.

And if you've read the news following some of the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you probably know that those leading the gun control movement in the United States right now are theater kids.

Mary Laura Philpott's puts it well in her Washington Post editorial: "Breathe, speak up, calm your nerves and stick to the words you mean to say. That's what you do onstage, and, if you're lucky, it's what you do when someone puts a microphone in front of your face".

Apparently, the drama teacher who taught these young adults and a fellow survivor of the shooting, Melody Herzfeld, a woman who hid 65 kids from the shooter, is to receive a theater education prize from the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University.

It's a big deal – as it should be. I owe a lot of who I am to theater.

One of my favorite teachers in elementary school would have us start and end the day with acting exercises. We imagined ourselves as melted ice cream cones, and we played that game where you and a partner mirror each other's movements. For a few minutes each day we creatively became something other than ourselves.

But hey, don't take my word for it.

Americans for the Arts says that the performing arts promote creativity, confidence, problem-solving, perseverance, focus, nonverbal communication, receiving constructive feedback, collaboration, dedication and accountability.

And laughter, lots of laughter. Which according to the Mayo Clinic, promotes a healthy immune system and relieves pain and stress.

And who dislikes the sound of a humanity with all those qualities? That's right, no one.

Perhaps not everyone enjoys getting up on stage, and that's totally okay. But I do believe that any kind of involvement in live and local theater even as a spectator can help change the world for the better.

So get out there and get your drama nerd on.

Cover Image Credit:

Hannah Sundell

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The Differences Between Live Theatre And Film

Film actors and stage actors aren't really that different... are they?
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Everyone has seen a movie and knows how amazing they can be. Theatre can also be amazing, just in different ways. Live theatre and film are similar in some respects but they are very different art forms. Theatre is familiar, larger than life, and lacking in special effects, whereas film has new material, less dramatic and obvious acting, and can be edited to show anything that is needed. Theatre and film are both visual art forms containing actors portraying characters, have scripts, and are widely appreciated, but they are not meant for the same place or people.

The biggest difference between live theatre and film is the location of the audience. On stage, the audience is far off and as they must be able to see and hear a performance to enjoy it, performers must act for the back row. This creates a larger than life performance which only works onstage. Whereas in films, the camera can always see you and the microphone can always hear you. Therefore, you do not have to act so over-the-top. Instead, doing less than you would in real life would be better. In fact, David Patrick Green states in his article, "The 3 Major Differences Between Stage and Screen Acting," that “reality is less enhanced when a camera and microphone become involved. In fact, due to camera-work, score, lighting, and other effects, it is sometimes better to do less than you would in real life because so many things are augmenting your performance.” In theatre, projection of your voice is a constant need, whereas in film you could whisper and the microphone would pick it up. Lloyd Kremer states in his article, "Theatre for the Film Actor," “Theatre is also much more demanding of the various vocal disciplines: volume, projection, and enunciation. In film work, many of these concerns are relegated to the Sound Man.”

Theatre is familiar in that the roles being portrayed have most likely been portrayed several times before, and the characters are very well known by the audience and the actors. Whereas in film, the characters with rare exceptions are being created for the first time. This makes portraying a movie character much easier than portraying a character in a play or musical. Green also states in his article, “the audience and critics will compare you to past versions of the same show. Because many stage characters have been played over and over, there is only so much leeway an audience will accept before they start to complain.” For instance, if Hamlet came onstage and said “To be, or to not be,” the audience would be enraged that you dared mess up a famous line of Shakespeare. Whereas in film, if you mess up a line the only people who will know are you and the people on set with you. Theatre is also familiar in that it gives actors plenty of time to get acquainted with their characters with rehearsal, but with film, that is not the case. As Eugene states in his article, "Stage vs. Screen: What's the Big Difference?" “...you will receive very little, if any, rehearsal time. Depending on the size of the role, you may not receive any direction. Films hire actors under the assumption that they will come to set performance-ready.”

Theatre and film are also very different in writing. Plays are written and then directors get ahold of the play script and adapt it to fit their stage and actors and sometimes even give it a bit of a modernized twist, whereas the screenplay for a film can be in revision as the acting is happening. For television shows, the scripts are written as the show is happening and the actors can get the script revisions while they are filming, whereas in theatre, the script is already written and no major revisions can really be made. In plays, every character has a description and it is the director’s job to decide how they want to interpret that onstage, whereas, in film, the director more or less makes up the character’s description. Lenore DeKoven says in the chapter “Directing: The Similarities and Differences between Film and Theatre” of her book, "Changing Direction: A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre", that “...the director’s work calls for an overview of the material and an awareness of the throughline and outlines for each character…”

Live theatre is very unpredictable. Anything can happen when you are onstage and it is an actor’s job to just roll with whatever happens and keep going. After all, “the show must go on.” Julia Kelso shows in her article, "Theatre vs Film: What’s the Difference?" many different things that could go wrong, such as “...an actor completely forgetting a line, a prop being misplaced, or that one stubborn section of the set breaking in the middle of a monologue.” On camera, you can redo the same scene as many times as you like, so you never have to worry about forgetting a line or tripping over something on the set.

Live theatre and film are very different art forms, meant for different audiences, yet both are essential to an actor and having experience in both often helps better your acting. Theatre is familiar to people, while film is brand new. Plays are written and then adapted, while screenplays are adapted while they are being written, and theatre is unpredictable and actors have to be flexible and willing to work through whatever happens, whereas with film, you get as many chances as you need for things to be perfect.
Cover Image Credit: henry edwards 2, now here this respectively

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'Dear Evan Hansen' Unfortunately Fell Short Of Its Tony Award-Winning Hype

I could not stand the plot because I found it absolutely disgusting some characters were profiting off of the death of Connor for such selfish reasons.

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SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for "Dear Evan Hanson"

You've probably all heard it before, right? In the summer, every time you opened the radio, the lively commercial telling you to watch the Broadway hit "Dear Evan Hansen" repetitively blasted. However, as you kept hearing it and finally looked it up on Youtube, this ultimately started your obsession, especially if you are as much of a Broadway show fan as myself.

However, when you finally got to the theatre, and you began to watch the show, you frustratingly realized the soundtrack that you have been listening to played in the wrong order than how you expected. Because of this, the events unfolded in the musical becomes a little more confusing, mixed up, and not as heartwarming as you expected.

The very premise of "Dear Evan Hansen" is that a very introverted boy — Evan Hansen — strives to make friends and get attention from his classmates and peers. As a nobody, Evan feels utterly invisible and wants to impress a girl he has had a massive crush on for years. Because of his introversion and social anxiety, he attends therapy regularly.

One day, as a therapy exercise, Evan is asked to boost his confidence by writing a letter to himself starting with "Dear Evan Hansen" about what great things that he expects to happen that day. However, due to an unfortunate course of events, the high school basketcase, Connor, commits suicide. Evan's letter addressed to himself is found amongst Connor's belongings and mistaken as Connor's suicide letter. This spurs the school, Connor's family, and the town to believe Evan and Connor were best friends. Riding off of this attention and feeling of acceptance, Evan perpetuates this lie until it gets blown out of proportion.

From the get-go, when only listening to the songs, it seemed that Evan had a very close friend named Jared. Thus, when I watched the musical, I expected to see a close friendship and the reassuring hope that even as an introvert, one can find someone who really cares about him/her.

However, in actuality, it turns out that Jared was only a "family friend" that did not want to be seen with Evan and thought Evan was a loser. In addition, he only wanted to monetarily profit off of Connor's death.

And, the most frustrating part was at the end, when the truth becomes revealed, Jared insists that he was Evan's friend all along and becomes hurt that Evan does not feel the same. At that moment, I became so frustrated.

If you establish at the beginning that you think that Evan is a loser, are only helping him for monetary gains, shut him out as a friend by insisting you are only "family friends," and not help Evan when things get blown out of proportion, what gives you the right to be "butt-hurt" because you've been SUCH an amazing friend to Evan. Get over yourself, Jared.

Another reason I could not stand the plot was that I found it absolutely disgusting some characters were profiting off of the death of Connor for such selfish reasons. One of the characters, Alana, did not personally know Connor but exploited his death to become a Club President and ran a blog in remembrance of Connor. She establishes her motivation is to write something extra on her resume for college.

However, when she wanted more "juicy" content to increase viewership for the blog, she publishes Connor's "fake" suicide letter or Evan's letter he wrote for the therapy exercise online without the consent of Connor's grieving family. This causes outrage and social criticism directed to the family. Nevertheless, she justifies her actions by explaining she doesn't want people to forget Connor because she understands what it is like to be forgotten. However, if she was REALLY creating a memorial for Connor, she would respect the family and maintain their privacy and do it solely to help the family instead of a fancy title for a college resume.

In addition, she was so focused on making everyone feel remembered, why didn't she make friends with Evan, who suffered from social anxiety and depression, before he was even noticed by this whole incident. In actuality, it really felt like she didn't care and was just trying to justify her terrible actions. Her actions were so ingenuine, selfish, and unempathetic that it was absolutely sickening.

Ultimately, expecting a heartwarming ending with the realization that everyone should not be forgotten and that introversion will not and cannot stop one from having a wonderful life, I was thoroughly disappointed and upset. When the truth becomes revealed to Connor's family that Connor's suicide letter was actually Evan's letter for a therapy exercise and that Connor and Evan were not best friends, all hell breaks loose. Yet, Connor's family ultimately still keeps Evan's secret. Nevertheless, Evan loses the love of his life, all his friends, and self-respect. For the terrible mistake that he makes, he spends his life repenting. And, in the end, he still alone and introverted.

What this musical ultimately said to me was: The introvert will always remain alone, people are selfish and disgusting, and the truth causes you to lose the girl.

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