A lot has happened since my last post. I'll try to give a brief synopsis:
My winter vacation was consumed by preparations for the ACTF Festival in Michigan. I had the opportunity to compete as an actor for the Irene Ryan scholarships, bringing sophomore Maddie Wakley (my friend, cohort, partner in crime, emotional rock, etc) as my partner. Although I was sick for the entire week preceding the festival (and through most of our time in Michigan as well), we made it to semifinals, and then we made it to finals. Great experience! Next was dramaturgical work for Cloud 9, directed by Lisa Kornetsky. The project was larger than I anticipated, but certainly a successful first stab at dramaturgy. I provided program notes, an online study guide, and lobby display for the show which, I am pleased to say, were noticed AND READ by several community members. Score again! Now I am in the very beginnings of rehearsals for As You Like It in which I am playing Touchstone (!!!!). It's my first Shakespearience and I'm feeling a bit intimidated, but ultimately enthused about the project.
I was also promoted to head writing tutor in the Parkside Writing Center. This really doesn't mean too much and hasn't changed much of what I do, but it's cool that they asked me to do it. I like working there.
There's a lot of things I could write about (and most likely will in future posts), but what I want to focus on right now is the latter: my position as head writing tutor.
Okay, not so much that particular position, but my job in the Writing Center and the questions it prompts on a daily basis and how it's reshaped the way I perceive the many possibilities for my future. Easy enough, yes? We'll see.
I really, really like teaching. Even more pleasant than this discovery, I've realized I may just have a natural knack for it, too! I used to think I wanted to be a high school teacher, but now that I've spent so much time working in the tutoring center - teaching outside of the classroom setting - I've realized that I don't need that structure in my life in order to achieve this goal. This acknowledgment has been quite freeing and is helping me open a lot of doors for possible career options. I am excited by the possibilities that exist for teachers in a non-classroom setting, and I thrive on the challenges that individual students' capacities to be open to learning present to me as a communicator. Every day I work with students of all kinds - some are looking for a quick edit-and-go, others arrive because they are seeking an understanding of a skill they have not yet mastered, and others come because they are forced. Their willingness to engage in a dialogue about their writing style, the process of writing, or anything remotely related to printed words on paper varies and, at times, my efforts end up being fruitless even after countless sessions with the same student. But there's always one kid - maybe it's only one that day, or only one the entire week - who suddenly 'gets it.' He or she puts two and two together in such a way which catalyzes a sudden burst of enlightenment, and feel - often for the first time - that they can do it. That they can do something.
Being able to provide my peers with that first sense of academic confidence is so exhilarating and rewarding to me. I can't even say for sure why that is, but when a student leaves the Writing Center smiling because they've suddenly done something they couldn't do before, and furthermore, they found their way to action through their own thought process, I feel elated. There's something very gratifying about finding true confidence in one's self - whether of an academic nature or otherwise.
This, at least for the moment, is what I want to do with my life. I want to inspire confidence and help others process their own patterns of thought and perception so that they can express those perceptions in comprehensible ways. We live in a world that is quickly becoming void of thoughtful communication; I want to stop that from happening. I want to give young people the artistic, creative, intellectual, whatever license to think and dream and command that others listen when they speak because their ideas are important to someone, somewhere.
I want a lot of things, apparently.
When I was in high school, I used to spend my summers as a counselor at our community's summer theatre camp. I worked with kids of all ages, all backgrounds, some of whom were handicapped in some way, and others who were just downright shy. Whatever their stories were at the beginning the summer, their experiences at camp gave them the ability to rewrite a part of themselves and emerge as stronger, more confident individuals. Its amazing how quickly a dedication to some form of artistic expression can change the way people see themselves. Communicating creatively builds communities, friendships, and a sense of individuality that is incredibly difficult to disassemble once the foundation is laid.
I spend a lot of time lately reflecting on what theatre has meant to me, both personally and professionally. I've always seen my participation in the theatre as the first spark of individuality that I could identify within myself. Theatre gave me the confidence to explore the world around me and ask questions about the way things are, but until now I never really thought about using theatre in my own professional life in order to give this kind of power to others. Until recently, I've viewed my education as an opportunity to hone my acting skills so that I could enter the "real world" as a professional, working actor. Is that still a goal now? Certainly. Is it the end-all, be-all that it once was? Not in any way. I want to act - I enjoy it very much. But the sense of purpose that education gives me can't be compared to anything else. At least not yet. My Dramaturgical work for Cloud 9, too, was an opportunity to test my skills as a sort of educator, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I loved being a part of rehearsals in a way that, while not involving myself actively on stage, was still collaborative and insightful. It was exciting to help others gain new perspectives about the text of the play, the messages it presented, and the world they would inhabit during their rehearsal period and run of the show. There's a lot to learn out there, and a lot to share.
Dramaturgy, educational outreach, tutoring, whatever. Doors are opening. It's a cool feeling.