For incoming College kids, primarily theatre students

June 29, 2013
By , Waco, TX
Dang. It’s been a few years since I even though about TeenInk. And just tonight I saw one of my old essays that I submitted, and I thought, “Man, what was that website called where I put those up and I could feel a little bit like people knew what makes me who I am?” And it took me a solid fifteen minutes to remember the name TeenInk. So I decided to slam something out that I’ve felt was lacking lately. Something FOR incoming college students, BY an incoming college student. It’s probably not everything that anyone could want, or anything that everyone could want, but at least it’s something. And it’s just where I am. Maybe some people will relate, maybe not. Maybe it’ll be there to help somebody.

So I just got home from orientation today. It’s a nice place. I’m going to a camp in about a week and a half to meet people, and I’m torn about it like most introverts would be. On the one hand, I met a handful of awesome, friendly, cool guys and girls at orientation, and a few of them spoke very highly of the camp. On the other hand, I’m terrified of stepping out, like any good little introvert like me could tell you. We hate absolutely hate to step outside our comfort zones, which I’ve realized are relatively small to start with. So going to a week of camp without much in the way of friends I already know or my cell phone is literally scaring me to death. I’m so scared it’s hurting. But honestly, I know I’ll survive, and I know I’ll move on. We introverts always do. So just for high school seniors who read this in their senior spring: just let it happen. Everything passes, for better or for worse.

And that passing is what really terrifies me. I finally found my place in the high school theatre department as an upperclassman, and now I’m doing it semi-professionally. I run sound for small setups around the city and I actually got a job offer to be a carpenter in the college theatre department. But my family was my high school theatre troupe. I trusted them like brothers and sisters, but more. We shared our victories and defeats together. We ate, slept, breathed, moved, worked, sweated, and bled together for our shows. And now mostly everyone is going a different way and not studying theatre. And I can’t understand it, because we won a lot. Our actors are all gifted enough to pursue it professionally, and they were all accepted to top-tier theatre programs. So I feel like I would be the odd man out and I can’t be that in my family.

My other family was my Boy Scout Troop. These boys and adults were my brothers, fathers, and uncles. And later on, when I turned 18 and could no longer be a scout, I became an adult leader, and I feel like some of the youngest boys are almost my own sons. It hurts more than anything to leave them behind.

What hurts the worst is that you lose your families all together. In the space of about three weeks, you lose almost all of your families, be they football, volleyball, track, cross country, soccer, some other sport, a robotics team, a debate team, or a theatre department. And any close group that you have outside of school you lose too. Suddenly you have a bunch of individual friends who are forced to realize that you no longer have any current connections. And it’s lonely. It’s all reduced to memories.

I’m trying to bring myself to study Theatrical Technology and Design in college. It’s my dream. And my school even has a great program. But I’m on a full academic scholarship. Some people may see the problem. There’s a strong feeling of obligation. Introverts tend to be more academically inclined, which leads to them doing better in school (obviously), which in turn leads to better academic scholarships in college. These academic scholarships come with obligations, essentially to your parents, as well as to yourself. This obligation also falls on kids who go to expensive schools. You feel like you’re privileged to be there, so you have to get a serious degree that will set you up for life. And that’s where I currently am.

So you can probably see the problem with trying to pursue a degree in theatre. Most parents don’t want their children getting into theatre. Most parents treat the arts like hallucinogenic drugs. It helps artists create great art, but as soon as their kids get interested, it’s awful. I’m not encouraging drug use, by the way. As an introvert, I’ve literally never touched a drug in my life. But I’ve gone to multiple schools with drug problems, so I’ve done some time around druggies, be they hardcore or casual. Also for college, the drug use becomes much more casual, because the hardcore drug kids don’t go to universities. Anyways, past the drugs tangent, I have a message for parents who don’t want their kids to pursue theatre:

Your kids want to study theatre because, somewhere along the way, someone was more encouraging than you.

And that’s a hard pill to swallow for most parents. But most theatre kids know what I’m talking about. Rational, well-balanced kids are not attracted to theatre. They’re attracted to engineering, or computer science. Theatre people are different. We’re the kids who have had problems at home or in school. We’re the kids who were profiled from day one for how we looked, dressed, or interacted with the general population. And if you didn’t recognize the prison reference in the last sentence, congrats. You’re probably normal, and thus not attracted to theatre much, but I could be wrong. But the prison reference is rather applicable for the kind of kids who are drawn to theatre. We’ve always been the people who wanted attention, even craved it. The difference between actors and technicians is that actors are extroverts, and technicians are almost always introverts. This isn’t true of stage managers, but again, I’m getting off-topic. Theatre kids come, in my relatively extensive interaction with others like me, from broken homes, bad parents, or parents who try to live through their children. Otherwise, they’ve suffered something or some things that drove them to seek attention.

The problem is that theatre in schools with an actual program in place, which are generally reserved for 4A and 5A schools, lead to a whole new set of personality issues:
For actors, it leads to a sort of addiction to attention that I’ve noticed. And it’s worse for the best actors and actresses. They look for a hit of attention in their next role or by busting out some solid gossip. They’re like junkies. And I promise you all, I’ve seen my share of junkies as well as actors. But I can’t think of having ever seen an actor who was also a drug junkie. For all I know, it’s a bit of an adrenaline kick, because I know plenty of actors who have a taste for doing very life-endangering stunts and stuff.

For technicians, you get aggression and arrogance or depression. The aggression always comes, that’s nonnegotiable, but sometimes it comes more like arrogance. But that’s rare. For the technicians who aren’t good enough at what they want to do to become arrogant, they become depressed. And I’ve been in both of these states: I’ve been arrogant as a carpenter and depressed as a sound designer. Most theatre people reading this have been in the same places. And I’ve noticed that actors get the same either aggression or depression, but extraordinarily rarely both. They either work hard to get past their depression and lack of skill or they start off on top and stay on top. Acting talent generally comes with a drive to succeed and stay on top of your game, but sometimes they do get cocky and get knocked off. Those people become known as Prima Donnas or Divas. And the general theatrical population hates these people with a passion, because they’re difficult to work with.
But past all of these personality deficiencies and faults, drug problems, and loss of families, we survive. As introverts, it’s what we do. We build up the worst possibilities in our minds like definitive conclusions and try to evaluate them and escape them. And I can’t possibly figure out how to fix that. But I can work at it. I’m planning to join a fraternity to help me get out of my box. Outside of that, I’ll do what I’ve always tried to do: Be Prepared.

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