The Valuable Lessons I Learned Through Theatre

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Last spring, I hopped on the Greyhound bus to Peterborough – a little but lovely city in southeastern Ontario – eager to catch the Anne Shirley Theatre Company’s production of Xanadu.

The Anne Shirley Theatre Company (more affectionately known as the ASTC) was founded 10 years ago when a group of students decided to put on the ever-popular show Anne of Green Gables – hence where “Anne Shirley” fits into the picture.

For the entirety of my time at Trent University (which was four seemingly long but also overwhelmingly quick years), ASTC was my thing – my favourite topic of conversation.

It was the reason my nights were sleepless and why I continually requested essay extensions, but it was also the reason I left Trent with a full heart.

I am notorious for getting extremely attached to everything in my life, so I know my feelings are a tad dramatic (let’s be honest – after four years of hanging out with theatre kids how could they not be?), but witnessing the ASTC in action without being a part of it was more heart-wrenching than I was anticipating.

Although it was beyond wonderful to see the show from the other side and have the chance to support the company, it definitely made me miss school. After four years of papers, exams and Aramark food, I think it’s safe to say I did not see this one coming.

As an unsure 18-year-old, my first year with ASTC was a whirlwind of singing as softly as I possibly could and sitting alone in the corner. However, come show weekend, I finally realized what I was a part of and felt completely immersed in the ASTC family. The energy of being on stage in front of actual people was something none of us could escape, and something we couldn’t share with anyone who hadn’t experienced it. After that weekend I was hooked, and the three years that followed were dominated by all things Anne Shirley.

I spent Saturday after Saturday wearing ugly sweat pants and learning dances that my unco-ordinated body hated me for. I spent afternoons seeking out donations for our fundraisers and hit the town on Thursday nights with the same people I had left rehearsal with only moments before.

Rehearsals were long and tedious. Not being able to remember your lines (or not having any lines to say) was beyond frustrating, and having to drag yourself out of bed in time to catch the 9:30 bus on a Saturday morning was more painful than words can ever hope to express. However, even when it seemed like the cons were outweighing the pros, there was never a part of me that didn’t think it would be worth it.

For millions of students, Saturdays are the day of homework. Weeks are jam-packed with classes, part-time jobs and late night dodgeball games, and Sundays are always a write-off. Saturday is where it’s at for the pencil to hit the paper full-throttle. So many times I’d have conversations with people about the musical and their first reaction would be, “I could never give up my Saturdays – I need that day to do homework.”

I do not doubt that many people are unable to make such a hefty time commitment. However, as a prior full-time student with a part-time job and hoppin’ social life, I can personally attest to the idea that if you love it, you’ll simply make time for it.

Not only that, but, at the risk of sounding cheesy, my time with the ASTC taught me a lot of valuable lessons as well. For one thing, it gave me a confidence that I never had before. I’ve come a long way from the days of sweaty-palmed, red-faced  high school presentations to “movin’ that thang” as Grandma Rosie.

It also showed me the importance of having a passion. Prior to theatre, I had never had something that I actually wanted to throw my heart and soul into. Sure, I was involved in various things my entire life, but nothing that motivated me the way ASTC did. This is something that has definitely carried into my post-school life. I’ve learned the importance of doing something that really matters to me, which has made me a lot more thoughtful and driven in my job search.

All in all, my point is do something you love – something that sparks some good ol’ inspiration in you. School is hard, and it is so easy to get caught up in the endless piles of homework before you. Let yourself do something that you can put your heart into – something that makes leaving school harder than you thought it would be. Get involved, get attached and find something to dull the ache that a cafeteria breakfast leaves in your stomach.

My road trip for the ASTC’s 2013 production is already in the works.

Photo credit: Mickey Thurman

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