I have always loved theatre, yet I always knew I could never make it on stage. My vocals are not that strong and my memory is even worse. I recall that in middle school when I auditioned for "Into the Woods Jr." I could not remember my monologue, so I scribbled the lines I had to say on my hand, and I still screwed up. I worked as a stagehand for "Seussical Jr.", which was a little more my style, however it was still stressful. I did not like having the pressure of being responsible for set pieces and making sure they were on stage at the right time. Once high school approached I was unsure of how I was going to fit into the picture of their theatre department.
I did not get heavily involved until sophomore year when my friend Maddie asked me if I would be a photographer for the program. Every show they make cast boards featuring pictures that were taken throughout rehearsals and headshots of each main actor. The previous photographer had just graduated and they needed a replacement; I said yes without hesitation because all of my friends were involved in theatre. It was my chance to feel a part of it, to feel like part of something.
It started with "Grease". The camera I was using was one that belonged to my mom before she passed away the summer before that year, and I knew nothing about shooting manually; I just knew I liked to take pictures. And despite having multiple friends involved in the production, I still felt like an outsider. A large population of upperclassmen took charge at rehearsal, and it took me a while to learn their names and faces. As the years passed, my photography skills started to improve and my connections with the cast and crew became stronger. Students would talk to me more frequently and by the end of senior year, I did not want to leave. It was not just because I would miss taking pictures of these people, I would miss the people.
I think one of the most rewarding parts of sitting through rehearsals up until opening night is watching everything come together. Whether that be learning lines, building sets, or finally getting costumes, it just completely transforms the whole setting. In addition, you get to watch those you love doing what they love. I do not think anything beats watching your friends portray the character they play, and not only that but also getting lost in the character. I remember when the high school did "West Side Story" in between scenes sometimes my friend Matt would find it hard to lose the accent he used on stage for Bernardo. Other spectators do not get to see that. They only see the final result.
Same goes for shows outside of high school, too. This summer I had the privilege of taking pictures for "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" produced by Audience of One Productions, and I am not going to lie it was overwhelming at first. Even though I was the one who put myself out there and offered to take on the role of photographer, the ensemble was filled with members from differing schools, cities, and included grades ranging from upcoming freshmen to graduated high school students or older. It was strange to only have a few people I knew there. It was for sure a varying environment, yet I enjoyed it nonetheless. The cast grew on me quickly and by the end of the first day, some of them were already offering me food when I did not pack a lunch. I left on a mission trip during "tech week", so the next time I saw them was their last performance. As I watched I thought to myself, "Wow, this is what it looks like when they have their props.", "That backdrop adds so much depth to the set!", and "Yes, they finally nailed their lines!".
Through the years of "junior" shows, to every last one up to "Phantom of the Opera" and beyond, I would like to extend a thank you to those who have befriended me along the way. Your smiles, laughter, and friendship not only made my job easier, it made it worth it. I am sure the directors would have allowed me to stop at any point if I asked, but I never wanted to. Thank you for putting up with me capturing all moments ranging from serious to silly. I hope I did not get in your way or distract you. Although you guys did not always give me credit when you reposted my images, I still love you. I will never forget all the hours I spent watching you all become stronger actors. When there were tears I wanted to look away, and when there was anger I wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear, yet in the end, it all came together just fine. I do not know what other plays or musicals I will be able to be a part of in the future, but what I do know is that I am a better person and photographer due to the ones that have shaped my past. My show tune repertoire has expanded quite drastically since my freshman year, and every now and again I still catch myself singing something from a past production. I will always be there to support the friends I made and the departments who welcomed me with open arms. I cannot wait to see what the future holds, for all of us. Never stop doing what you love, that passion will take you places.