Theatre was life.
I will never forget the first time I decided to take the stage and make it my own. First day of my freshman year of high school was one of the worst days of my life, but there was one redeeming memory from it. My theatre class sat stiffly in the auditorium seats of my high school, nervous and new. It was morning and each student was stilled freshly primped, dressed in those first day outfits. A friend and I sat closely together, she was the only one I knew.
The theatre teacher, Kathie JR Bettler, sat on the stage, facing the class. She looked at us through her glasses and we looked back at her with wide eyes. Her co-teacher, Letha Hembree (Spotlight’s current owner), sat next her. Every teacher gives that spill during the first day, me included!, but before they began going over rules and procedures, Kathie gave the students an opportunity to get on stage to do whatever they wanted. She was so just awesome like that.
Of course a huge group of seniors hopped on stage. Back then it was their stage. I remember looking over at my friend, looking at her like she was looking at me: It’s now or never.
We were the only freshmen to go up on the stage. And we chose to dance like crazy people. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I wasn’t embarrassed in front of the class. The thing about theatre, though, is that by the time you put on elaborate costumes, huge make up, and begin saying someone else’s words, you’re past the point of letting embarrassment bother you. That first day of high school marked the first day my heart was dedicated to the theatre.
I have made many friends and family through theatre. I think one time I sat down and counted all the shows I have ever been involved in and it was close to 40. The thing about theatre is that it’s just as much of a team sport as football. You create something with your cast and crew and then you put it on for an audience. You cover for each other, you make up for things that fall through, and you do whatever it takes to get that story told. In the end you have won so much experience and memories you are starving to do it again.
When I Kathie asked me to be on staff of her private acting school I was a little apprehensive. At 15 years old I didn’t know anything about kids. Turns out I love them and they love me. Spotlight Acting School became a huge family to me only in the way theatre can make a family. From herding children backstage, to teaching choreography, to directing I have met hundreds of people from this job.
I’ve also made many memories.
One of the biggest lessons I taught young actors was to tell the audience a story. No matter what happens while they were performing, they were to tell their story. I remember one show, due to a pesky stomach virus that made the kids drop like flies backstage, I played three characters in one show!
Then there was the time a student learned the lines of a cast member that didn’t show in 5 minutes! And didn’t miss a single line!
Then there was the time my coworker, Sarah, and I had to stall in front of 400 children, during a school performance where one of our cast members had a wardrobe malfunction. What did we do? We fought a la karate style, as a pink girl and a bumblebee.
You can’t make this up.
Spotlight Acting School was one of the best things that ever happened to me. For the last 7.5 years I have gotten to spend every weekend with hundreds of eager children, yearning to learn what I was passionate about too. It made me realize my love of teaching.
With my move to a new area in Kentucky, one of the hardest things that I have had to do was parting ways with Spotlight. It has been a huge part of my life for a long time now. What made this even harder was that when I accepted the position to teach where I am now, I had to leave behind the production of Winnie the Pooh that I was directing. The two casts are incredibly talented.
But the show must go on. Instead of canceling Winnie, the owners and staff of the acting school picked up where I left off. Just like we teach the kids, we will do anything to tell the story…that’s just who actors are!
Now it is the week I have been excited about: show week! As I look on Facebook and check in from time to time with staff and kids I can’t say how extraordinarily proud I am of these students.
I may not be there physically but I wanted to wish the cast of Winnie the Pooh Blue and Purple group to break a leg! I can’t wait to come and see how hard they have worked to put their production on. If you are in the Kentucky area, you should consider coming out to watch this show this and next weekend!
As for me, I will be cheering them on from the audience. This will also be the last of the Secrets of a Theatre Teacher section of my blog for the time being. I am not saying farewell to theatre, only see you later. Remember, the show must always go on!