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Youth Theater: A Personal Story

I want this blog to be a good resource for our community, but I also acknowledge that data and research derived from others doesn’t tell you why I am so passionate about this movement. So, in an effort to put forth a personal perspective, the following is an account related to why Youth Theater is my passion.

I grew up in a small town with little to offer a single-child of a young, single mother. Yep, we were poor. Really poor. But this story is not about the hardships of poverty; it’s really about the impact one person can have on a generation.

I found theater when I was 9 or 10 years old, though I had been “performing” since I could walk. I auditioned for, and received the lead role, in our 5th grade play. This was a critical moment in my life – my step father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother was working as many jobs as necessary to keep a roof over our head. The stage became my stable home. I quickly caught the theater “bug” and auditioned for our local Youth Theater Company,  receiving a small role in a variety show. That is also where I met my mentor, Robin. 

Robin was probably in her early 20’s when we met. I was 10. She was the most amazing person I had ever met. She could take a group of 40 plus, rowdy kids and turn us into theater Machines. Her work was incredible and to disappoint Robin was by far the WORST feeling ever! So we all worked very hard to make her proud. She was also a support and a positive influence, particularly to those of us whose home circumstances were not ideal. I truly believe that through her love and encouragement she saved many of us from a stereotypical fate.

I participate in a Youth Theater program nearly every summer of my childhood. That was my Disneyland – my church camp – my summer vacation. The friendships made those summers are still with me to this day!

Theater is an incredible art form, integrating all of the arts and open to all people. It wasn’t until I stood in Robin’s shoes that I truly understood. She didn’t direct Youth Theater for us. She worked with youth in theater for her. It is a completely selfish and incredibly fulfilling experience to help a young person discover a new talent, build confidence, learn to understand a different perspective, gain knowledge, accept rejection, and grow into incredible adults.

Robin is certainly not the only incredible Theater Mentor I’ve had bless my life, but she is the first and obviously one of the most poignant. I model my own teaching off of her – after all “if you feel a little stupid, you’re probably doing it right!” 

Thank you Robin, for believing me, for loving me, and for knowing that I really can do anything! Even start my own Youth Theater Company!