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I feel myself jump as the ground shakes, and Horace Vandergelder storms out. My heart beats, and all I can think is to wait for it, wait for it—dialogue, more dialogue, finally singing… “And now that we’re dancing who cares if we ever stop!” That’s our cue. I dart from my position behind a set piece and turn the wrench, bracing my ears for the grating screech the set makes as it splits in half. Scene change time. As us stagehands push the set offstage, then ensemble streams into the middle of the stage to continue the number. Having removed the set, we know quietly sing along in the wings, watching the flourish of costumes as the cast begins to dance. It was opening night, and everything was paying off: from the hours painting and assembling the set, running through the show, and for me, the initial decision to join theater.
I wouldn’t have expected it to happen. Prior to theater, my robustness in class quickly morphed into timidness the instant I stepped into something unfamiliar. So when my friend asked me to join theater, I inevitably declined. “But it’ll be fun, and we need more boys!” “Eh, but I don’t have the time…” Yeah right. More like you’re not willing to sing and dance on stage. “Okay, then how about be a stagehand? You’d help move sets and stuff, and you wouldn’t even need to come to all of the rehearsals” “Let me think about it…” Working behind the scenes proved to be more tenable for me, and a few days later, I showed up at rehearsal thinking “Well, why not?”.
At first, it was as awkward as I had feared; I stumbled around, only knowing two people. But as I worked on the set, two grew to ten, until by opening night, I’d met and worked with all the cast and crew. And while it was more demanding than I expected, between the twelve-hour weekend rehearsals and running around moving props during the show, it more than paid off, though both the audience’s praise and the friends I made. I acclimated to the environment—and I loved it. What’s more, after hanging out with enthusiastic thespians, I become more willing to explore the performing arts. When the show ended, I ended up joining chorus half-way through the year, and next year, I actually auditioned for the musical, getting several small roles. I’d found an activity, totally different from the math and computer science that I was used to, that I thoroughly enjoyed.
After moving to Oregon though, I could not longer participate; my classes at Portland State conflicted with rehearsals, so my theatrical activities were limited to playing improv games during lunch, or acting out “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” with friends. Yet, though I haven’t recently reveled in the thrill of singing and dancing on the stage, I nevertheless consider theater to be one of my most valuable experiences. Though I was initially reticent, the way that ultimately bloomed into enthusiasm has helped me find confidence and a willingness to try new things. It’s the reason why, whether competing in Academic Decathlon or rising to speak during Debate, I’m filled with self-confidence. It’s what allowed me to easily adapt to the new, and very different environment in Portland. And it’s the root of my confidence that no matter what happens in the future, I will approach new opportunities fearlessly, and thrive.
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