The Traditions I Carry

May 31, 2012
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I am a traditionalist. Tiny rituals that sometimes go without notice have always held a special place in my core. Not my heart, a heart is fluctuating, a heart changes over time. Tradition shouldn’t, and I believe that. My core is ribbon-wrapped with fond memories, sayings, songs and rituals that have added both spice as well as a sense of belonging into my favorite things. Both new and carried on, traditions carry the roots of my past into my present and shoot them into the future.

The Kolze auditorium is home to the gaggle of carnies I am pleased to call my friends. I am confident in saying theatre students uphold very strong traditions, mostly without even questioning why. Never has anyone asked “Do I have to kiss the stage?” or “The boys do what with lemons?” It is simply accepted. In reality, theatrical traditions are upheld because there is no reason not to. It grants a sense of belonging and community to whomever participates. But as I have found out, these traditions allow me to link up the fondest memories of my past straight into my present, and I feel it my duty to pass them on to the carnies of the future.

My dad worked at a bank. I never wanted to go to work with him. Everything was numbers and figures and stark white paper. At the ripe age of nine, my father’s mid-life career change exposed me to the world of theatre and zany high school traditions at Mundelein High School. I spent as much time as possible at work with my father. His students taught me the importance of upholding tradition, always participating, and embracing the culture I was whirled into. My childhood was quickly filled with exciting new friends, and thrillingly inappropriate insight into the world of big bad high schoolers. The feeling of belonging was as if I shared a secret with 50 other teenagers, and we all thrived in this sub-culture filled with ‘Ultrasex’ (a dancing ritual filled with fist-pumping and shouting), the Sugar Dance, pulse circles and anything else that had somehow pushed past the wall of time and became the status-quo way to feel welcome and bring groups together. I always felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, and that somehow I was connecting back to students who had graduated long ago. It was thrilling, really.

By age thirteen, I vowed to myself that I would try my best to bring these traditions I had so willingly embraced in my youth into my own high school experience. The students I grew up around were huge role models, and it made me realize that I could be a role model as well, and could do it through upholding traditions. Unfortunately by age thirteen, ultrasex had died out, Sugar had graduated and his dance went with him, but pulse circles remained; more specifically, the “energy diction focus intensity” circle, which I observed to be very powerful in preparing for a performance. I chose my battles wisely, and decided to try out a few rituals from my glory days and integrate them into the glory years I was about to endeavor at Fremd High School.

I’m now a junior, an upperclassman, a head honcho. It’s been a slow process, but the “energy diction focus intensity” circle has made its way into Fremd’s Contest Play pre-show routine, as well as a few other vocal warm ups I picked up back in Mundelein. The students at Fremd enjoy them, and find them effective, but I know I gain the most satisfaction. While the rituals and warm-ups seem mundane and not very special, they have such strong connections to my youth that seeing people in my life today participate in them without really knowing why is almost touching. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, knowing that I am not only upholding traditions I learned as I entered Fremd, but also combining them with traditions I promised to keep from Mundelein.

Along with the upholding of traditions, I have also managed to create my own tradition, which I plan on ‘passing on’ at the end of my senior year (side note: Fremd seniors have for as long as who knows, have been ‘passing down’ certain traditions to underclassmen, so as to make sure none of them get lost). In the spring of my freshman year, then-senior AJ Curry and I had snuck Frostees into the boys’ dressing room (our way of adhering to the ‘no eating in the auditorium’ rule), and returned back to rehearsal. During a period where I wasn’t on stage, I went back into the dressing room to take a bite or two. It is standard protocol (maybe even tradition) that when a woman enters the male dressing room, she must shout out “Boobs!” before entering as a cautionary to ensure the men are decent. I shouted…. No response. Awesome, I thought, it’s Frostee time. I had barely taken my first bite when I heard a noise coming from the bathroom portion of the dressing room. There, in all of his glory, was Tim Jacobi reliving himself at the urinal with both hands on the wall. Tim is not a small man, by any means, so the sight itself was enough to make me slam down my cup and bolt. Why hadn’t he said anything? Did he even know I was in there? This was a story I told time and time again, until ‘The Tim’ was born.

I’m not sure how it happened, but that year during Contest Play, The Tim was created. It’s a dance move that required the dancer to place both hands in the air (naturally) and shake back and forth. It has morphed over the past two years to begin with a huddle of swaying performers, a pre-dance chant (led by myself), and goes right into a big “1, 2, 3 DO THE TIM!” All of our hands go into the circle, and we cry out whatever word we deem suitable for the production (last year’s word was Holocaust, this year: Catholicism). I am so very proud that I’ve somehow created my own tradition that will be upheld by students. Eventually, no one will know who I am, who Tim is, or even why The Tim started. But, they will dance The Tim without question, simply because it has become tradition. That’s so incredible to me, that something so trivial will eventually create a sense of belonging and community between groups of people.

Above all, traditions are more than rituals I slavishly adhere to. They have roots planted in places I don’t know, but I know that they must be carried on. I recognize that what may be seen as something so trivial to an individual has so much meaning. I always imagine alumni coming back and seeing the smiles on their face when they realize we still ‘adopt’ and hold spirit circles, and any new traditions that have picked up along the way. So, as a traditionalist, I see the depth and importance of keeping traditions rooted where they should be, and I can only hope students after me will feel the same and continue to pass on and pass down what they’ve been given.





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