The past several years, I have learned to appreciate the performing arts, especially the Broadway musical. At age 12, I saw "The Sound of Music" for the first time. That movie really jump-started my interest in musicals and, soon after, the things that could be accomplished through theatrical productions. Then I saw the tour of "Wicked," which awoke in me a desire to perform on stage. Last year, I was able to begin acting at our local community theater. More than being an enjoyable hobby, acting in theater has prepared me for the future.
The first thing theater has helped me with is confidence. Acting requires one to stand in front of a crowd of people, in direct spotlight, and convey a variety of emotions. In a comedy, your character has to deliver the lines just right to get a laugh from the audience. In a drama, you might have to invoke sympathy in the audience. This is arguably where live theater is more difficult than film. You don't have retakes; you must make the experience come alive in the moment, using any nervous energy to propel you through the scenes. For me (and many others, I'm sure), the biggest hurdle I had to jump was getting the courage to deliver my lines in front of a large group of people. This was especially hard when I had to sing in "My Fair Lady." Yet after the first time I performed on stage, I realized that when I left my comfort zone, things went very well. Sure, I still get nervous, but I remember that I have worked hard to hone my skills for the show and that helps me work to the best of my abilities. Confidence is so important in life, professionally, academically and personally. How many times have you heard that confidence can help you land a job? When lacking confidence, one holds themselves back from accomplishing what they are able. Further, my building confidence has aided in meeting strangers who become good friends, which leads to my next point.
Acting has been a huge help in relating to other people. Theater can bring out the best or worst in people depending on how you handle situations. Learning how to relate to people in good and bad situations is so necessary for life. Things can get really tense backstage when something goes wrong. You have to work on keeping calm, limiting the stress and getting out on stage totally prepared. Besides, an actor needs to work with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. I have had to rehearse with people of different religions that mine, different political beliefs and different social beliefs. The world is a diverse place, and we will always need the skill of knowing how to interact with people who might be extremely different than us. Participating in theater helped me with my job. Sometimes co-workers didn't make my job easy, but because of the people skills I learned through acting, I reached a point where I kept calm and continued to do what my boss had instructed. You never need to let people push you around, but holding your tongue and persevering through your tasks takes a lot of strength.
Theater also has aided me in humility. I'm sure that sounds wrong; actors are supposed to be overly-dramatic and boastful, right? Not necessarily (though the dramatic part might still apply to me!). Especially when you are a novice actor, seeing the talents of experienced performers shows you how far you still have to go. This doesn't negate the important of confidence. Rather, humility and confidence compliment each other. Humility shows us our place, confidence helps us reach a better, more experienced position. It isn't beneficial to be arrogant, but it also doesn't help to beat ourselves up. Humility, with confidence, gives a balance. When we are sufficiently humble, we recognize that we don't know everything. Therefore, we are most willing to learn. To use an example from my job, again, humility has allowed me to learn from my mistakes. When I don't clean something correctly, I need to stay humble and let my boss correct me. As I prepare for college, I'm positive I will need to humble myself in order to learn from my professors.
Another skill is perseverance. Sometimes a rehearsal might run well-past 10 pm. In those cases, I was tired and looking forward to getting home, but I still would have to get on stage and act or sing to the best of my ability while the director observed. I do love acting and the theater is like a second home, but it still takes perseverance to get through long, sometimes frustrating rehearsals. To continue my examples above, the ability to not give up is important when trying to finish a job or complete a school assignment.
Finally, theater has helped me become a more outgoing person. Sometimes I'm more of an introvert, but performing arts, obviously, forces participation. You have to open up and be willing to do things in theater. There's nothing wrong with having alone time, but there are also benefits from being social. You can meet new people and try new activities. If you had not been outgoing at all, you can miss out on great experiences.
So next time you think of theater as an easy activity that requires little of the participant, just remember that acting takes hard work and builds character. It's true that theater provides entertainment, but deeper than that, true theater displays truths about reality and our lives. Performing in plays or musicals can make us better people.