I will never forget the first rehearsal. It was just my director, Jill, and me. We were working on my song. Jill kept telling me to sing it over and over again, and every time I just got more and more frustrated. I wasn’t singing the notes right and I kept forgetting the words and I knew the tempo was all wrong. Jill kept insisting that the music didn’t matter; she just wanted me to act. I remember thinking, “What are you talking about? I’m singing. Isn’t that enough?” Suddenly I realized what made those fancy Broadway actors so special. They act and sing at the same time! At that moment, I promised myself I would forget about the music and just focus on the acting.
I remember looking at the clock and seeing that Jill and I only had five minutes left in our rehearsal together. I had one last chance to act and sing at the same time. I took a deep breath, looked at Jill, and sat down where I was supposed to start the song. Jill smiled and winked at me, encouraging me that I could do this. I felt like the world was hanging on my shoulders. Once the music started, I looked out towards the house and opened my mouth to sing. I thought about the character and how she honestly felt like nobody at school cared about her. I thought about the other kids and how cruel they were to her for no particular reason. I remember messing up a few words and notes, but I didn’t care. I was someone else at that moment. I was my character.
When the song ended, I took a deep breath and then looked up at Jill. Before I knew it, she was picking me up and spinning me around, screaming, “You did it! That was it!” I felt like I conquered the world.
This breakthrough moment I had with my director was not life-changing because it made me a better actor—after all, I was only seven. It was life-changing because it taught me a life lesson: if you believe in yourself and focus on the present moment, you will be successful. Since my seven-year-old breakthrough experience, I’ve found that most rules in theatre directly apply to life. For example, always support your fellow actors. Or, actually listen to what your stage partner is saying to you, otherwise you will anticipate rather than live in the moment. These theatrical rules apply to life because the arts and life are intimately connected. Without arts programs, kids would not learn how to build the confidence to express themselves creatively. Arts programs have the potential to change people’s lives at any age—why not start young?
When I volunteered with YPT this past year in Ms. Jone’s fourth grade classroom at Watkins Elementary School, I personally noticed the spark that I once had as a seven-year-old in the eyes of the young, budding playwrights. As a volunteer for YPT, I’ve been able to see how good arts programs shape and form children’s views on life. I think most of us are jealous of children because they have the liberty of always jumping into situations with open arms; they have not yet learned the need to protect themselves or not to trust someone. Arts programs are necessary for children because children are open and ready to explore their creative thoughts. And they have brilliant thoughts! I have loved every moment of volunteering with YPT, and I have no doubt that this program has changed the lives of many young students.
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