I’m finishing my sophomore year in high school. The year before I was in the fall musical and somehow managed to get a hold of a supporting role in the mainstage musical The Who’s Tommy. I played pre-pubescent boys in both of those shows. Because of some Tommy problems that I won’t detail here and because I was one of the two freshmen in the cast, I was left feeling confused, insecure, and unacquainted with my fellow actors.
This year, I wanted to start my theater career anew. I decided to enter a new realm of high school theater: Unhinged. Unhinged productions are entirely produced by students: the directing, acting, tech, costumes, you name it. I was in three out of the four Unhinged shows this year and the mainstage musical again. This was an experience entirely different from last year’s, and I am grateful to have been able to work with such wonderful people.
But now, the list you’ve all been waiting for.
10 things I learned From High School Theater that apply to all of life:
1. Don’t be intimidated by others. This is serious. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the “cool” upperclassmen who are so good you want to ask for an autograph (or at least a hug) at auditions. Many people are scared of approaching members of this theater group but do not be! Once I was in Unhinged shows acting alongside and being directed by these guys I quickly learned that they are some of the kindest, most approachable, funniest, and overall greatest people. If you shy away from these people, you’re missing out.
2. It’s not you, it’s the part. This is something that every actor – high school or otherwise — has to go through. Rejection. Being turned down for a part does not mean you’re a bad actor. You just don’t fit. DO NOT GIVE UP! Don’t do it.
3. Okay, it actually might be you. This does not mean what you think it does. Everyone has potential to be an excellent performer. This is about reputation. People will not cast you if you have a bad name. To prevent this, all you really have to do is be a decent person. Memorize lines on time, show up, don’t be rude to your directors. Common sense, really.
4. Theater secrets stay secret. Sorry, I can’t say more.
5. There is always room for improvement. Though it’s great to be confident, it’s important to remember that you can always improve on your skills. Someone who starts with no natural acting talent but works hard can do just as well, if not better, than a person who is plenty talented but doesn’t work at all.
6. Don’t look down on others. Everyone’s learning. Be nice.
7. Learn to work in chaos. It’s tech week and there’s only half of a set? Your scene partner hasn’t learned their lines? All part of high school theater. Get used to it.
8. Enjoy yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be perfect, but a production can’t be good if the people involved are not enjoying what they’re doing. Though it may be hard sometimes, have fun. You’re acting! That’s the best, right?
9. Don’t exclude others. Shows are only fun when all of the cast and crew get along. People can be ostracized enough by outsiders just for being in theater. Don’t let it happen in the cast as well.
10. Be yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, this is so true. If you’re not being yourself, it’s hard to stay relaxed and have a good time. Once you let your guard down and are able to be yourself in front of other people (see number one), high school theater can be one of the best communities to be a part of. It’s just so damn fun.
Thanks to everyone I worked with this year and a special shout out to my high school’s amazing casts and crews of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Nerd, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. I love you all.
Post by Natalie El-Hai. Natalie enjoys science and all things theater. She spends her free time reading and snuggling with her cats. She will be a sophomore at Southwest High School this fall.
Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a multi-part series from BGC contributors on how they kicked ass in 2013. Want to tell us how you kicked ass? How you were your own girl hero? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post the best ones on New Year’s Day.
I will be the first to admit that I have unrealistic expectations for life. Now, I don’t expect to suddenly acquire magical skills. I don’t expect to actually go to the moon in my lifetime. I mean, of course I’d love for that to happen.
Being unrealistic is a hallmark of my personality. I am crazy enough to believe things can happen when you trust in the universe and work hard. Plan a party at San Diego Comic Con with a bunch people I’ve never met who live all over the globe and then sell said party out well before July? Hell yeah. Do that shit. Go to Ireland with absolutely no plans and just see what happens because it’s freaking Dublin? Um, yep. Set a goal to get a video I’ve directed on The New York Times? People… that freaking happened.
"I want to kick ass." - Me, literally, the other night when eating a burrito with my brother.
It’s been my motto as of late. It’s what inspired this whole freaking series of posts. (There’s more to come.) But there’s a bigger theme here and I’m getting to it. Sorry, I know it’s taking me a bit longer than it should.
In 2013, I decided to just follow my heart and trust where the universe is taking me. And then, I gave myself permission to be happy for being awesome.
It sounds so simple, but it’s inexplicably one of the hardest things to commit to. It can be so easy to get comfortable in a job, or in a city or even in a wardrobe and just decide not to change course even when all the conditions around us are trying to show us a different path. Not wanting to wake up in the morning: that’s not just the universe telling you something, that’s your body telling you something. And yet I freaking ignored it for years.
Before 2013, I made excuses all the time. Here’s a list of excuses I’ve made in the last few years while a big freaking cloud shaped like an arrow was pointing me in another direction: (okay, not literally, but it sounds cool..)
Yeah, that’s a narrative for a lot of people. It was my narrative. Until I decided it’s harder to be unhappy. Have you ever in your life once made an EXCUSE FOR BEING HAPPY? FOR KICKING ASS? I have yet to hear myself say:
Yeah, that’s what I thought. In retrospect, that’s what 2013 has been all about. Taking stock of the dreams in my head, making them real by admitting I wanted them, working as hard as I can to make them happen and then being bold enough to say, Goddammit… that was freaking great.
This has been such a revelation, I plan to carry it over into 2014.
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” - JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I’ve been reminded in my crazed state of mind to find ALL.THE.PERFECT.GIFT.THINGS. that I’m not as into this holiday thing as much as I think I am. So I’m here to make a plea. Instead of spending all your pennies on crazy gifts and expensive cocktails this holiday season, make a pact with your favorite peeps to instead spend your precious cash on an adventure. My brother and I do this every few years. Last year we opted to buy plane tickets to the United Kingdom and indeed, it was the trip we both needed and hoped for.
It goes beyond the gift giving too, though. Traditionally I would have spent my dollars on a Christmas tree and decorations these last few weeks. I would have put up a new wreath. Stocked up on pine scented candles. Even replaced the burnt out lights for the outdoor spaces. I wasn’t up to it this year… so instead I bought flights and spent the last two weekends on a different kind of adventure altogether. I spent a day jumping on a giant trampoline and munching on grilled cheese sandwiches filled with macaroni. Yeah, I know, it WAS as amazing as it sounds. I spent an afternoon driving around a new city listening to musicians I’ve never heard before. I even went to a restaurant that only serves desserts and I didn’t think about calories. What a freaking joy. Call it an escape if you want. Maybe next year I’ll get the tree. But this year, the adventure was exactly what I needed.
If you are stumped trying to find the perfect “thing” for that person on the list that needs no… thing, well, stop. And go on an adventure instead.
(Print above is from Pinwheel Print Shop - so if you can’t actually go on an adventure with a friend or family member, at least remind them to try.)
"Uteruses before duderuses."
It’s possibly Leslie Knope’s most notable moment of genius. And it’s my new motto. Let me explain why…
My life has been a tornado lately. This isn’t some kind of weird Helen Hunt themed Twister metaphor. I truly mean that it is as if a gale force wind invaded my life, threw every single thing I thought I knew about who I was, who I want to be and the life I live day to day and threw it in the middle of a cyclone. When the storm finally passed, I was holding onto the hands of my best friends looking at the chaos and going: “shit, I have to clean this up?”
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to clean it up alone.
Now this is a weird transition, but I’ve been thinking about Catching Fire a lot lately too. I see a lot of myself in Katniss. I can be stupidly stubborn. Relentlessly tough. I will try to go it alone, even when I don’t have to. Let me say that another way: Katniss is always turning away help. IF YOU TURN AWAY HELP, STOP IT. KNOPE WOULD DISAPPROVE.
When you’re watching everything you know flail around you and crash to the ground, it’s scary. It’s easy to turn inward and push everything and everyone out until the noise and the glass and the chaos ends. But don’t do it. Don’t be Katniss. Take your best friends by the hand and cry. And when weird shit happens, like your sex toys end up on the front lawn, laugh with them too. (I’m not saying my sex toys literally ended up on my front lawn, but believe me, it could have.)
My girlfriends saved me. I told them that over and over and over again this last month. Those uteruses are the best things in my life. If you don’t have that - stop reading this - stop trolling Reddit - stop shopping on Think Geek - stop watching Avengers for the 10th time. GO. Make a date with your lady friends. Start talking on the weekly with your good friends. Tell them your secrets. Open up. In time, you will grow closer. And if you see a storm on their radar, take their hand, plant your feet firmly on the ground and be there for them.
I hope I never have to return this favor to my dear friends some day in the future… but I will be there saying, “What would Leslie Knope do?”
Life is often like Bilbo Baggins’ journey. It’s a bit unorganized. Messy. Riddled with detours. Humans can get hung up on the fact that the journey isn’t a straight and narrow path. Don’t.
Forward. Backward. Left. Right. It doesn’t matter. Your journey is your journey. Go live it. Don’t get obsessed with the “right” direction. It all works out in the end. Just ask Frodo.