By the time I had entered into high school, I had a strong understanding that I knew I was going to major in either acting or musical theatre in college. I had my future plan in mind. As for my classmates, they were still mostly on the fence about what they wanted to do with their life (and quite honestly, some still are (and that’s perfectly fine). I’d see some of the students at my school perform, and be completely blown away by their honest and amazing performances. I would talk to them afterwards and ask if they were thinking of pursuing a career in theatre, and the varied answers I would recieve astounded me. The vast majority of classmates that I talked to stated that they had never even contemplated a career in theatre, it was just something they did after school. I eventually came to realize that this was the response I would receive because schools tend to paint theatre and arts in a light that shows them as only extracirriculars or hobbies. Theatre 360, formerly known as Pasadena Junior Theatre, was what showed me that I could make a living in the arts, and that theatre was so much more to me than just an extra-cirricular activity to put on college applications.
I first started out at Theatre 360 doing a show here and there, and taking a few acting classes. I never thought about theatre too seriously; I thought I was going to grow up to be a lawyer or a criminal investigator. But I remember in one of my acting classes, when we were working on scenes, my scene partner and I were doing a scene from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (we were way too young to be doing that scene, but we did it anyway), and my teacher Bridget said excitedly, “I have to bring Devon in to see this, you guys are doing such a great job.” I thought she was joking, but she went to to the office, and brought Devon (Artistic/Executive Director of Theatre 360) into the class, and had us do the scene again. I remember at that moment thinking, “I’m actually good at this?”, and it was such a rewarding moment for me to have the teachers that I looked up to show their pride in me and my progress, not just as an artist, but also growing into a citizen of the world. That’s what I found to be a beautiful thing about Theatre 360 – it is an environment where everyone from the students to the staff to the teachers is supportive of one another, and ugly competition that frequently plagues teenage divas is not present and not tolerated. I gained confidence in myself and my views on the world, I took more risks in my academic work at school, I learned how to be both a leader and a teammate all through my participation in productions and training at Theatre 360.
Theatre, in many schools, is only looked upon as an extracirricular activity rather than a potential career choice, because it’s not an “academic” subject like history, science, math, or english. I have no idea as to what my life could have been if I hadn’t done certain things, but if I hadn’t gone to Theatre 360, I probably would have gone off to college with the intent of becoming a lawyer because I wouldn’t have grown up with the assurance that I could have a career in the arts. And even if kids end up only liking theatre as a hobby rather than a career choice, I still think it’s important for all students to have some long-term experience, education, or exploration in theatre some time in their scholastic career because it is crucial in helping kids grow into themselves and their humanity. My parents’ original intent with sending me to Theatre 360 in the first place was to place me in an environment where I could grow out of my fear of speaking with others. I was a shy child, and they didn’t want that to ever be a barrier for me in my future.
I found a family at Theatre 360 – a group of like-minded teenagers who wanted to share with our community and our world what we love about life. I found a mentor – Devon Yates – who has supported me from day one, and has equipped me with the tools and advice on how to navigate the rocky terrain of the entertainment industry. I found what I want to do with my life – share with people the world around them, and inspire both others and myself to bring out and showcase the best of humanity.
Bottom Line: I would not be where I am today if my mom never forced me to audition for Lil’ Abner at the tender age of 10 (with the song “The Sound of Music” from The Sound of Music). I probably would still be scared of speaking in public to this day had I not done theatre.
Until next time!
~Kelsey; Time Lord/ Intern