In the past few weeks, I have had the fortunate opportunity to clinic sixteen shows in different parts of Texas. I always leave feeling challenged, inspired, and blessed. This past weekend, I returned with a huge appreciation for the life lessons we teach students while working on a production. We teach students about perseverance, commitment, and the strength we gain when working with others.
As I have worked with each director, I recognize the toll the long hours and stress put on each of us. Preparing for the competition season, working within a budget, lesson planning, teaching, grading etc. (not to mention having a family) is draining on all of us. With the earlier contest dates, we are all scrambling to re-adjust our schedules to be prepared for that first contest. Even with the best-laid plans, unexpected delays seem to pop up. I know many of you have had additional, unforeseen complications with obtaining production rights, commitments (or should I say non-commitments) from students, and the flu season.
About the time I am at the end of my stress level and ready to throw in the towel, I am reminded of the invaluable lessons we are teaching our students as we press through all of the obstacles to prepare our production. When students see us continuing to work hard, staying positive, working around all hurdles, they are learning life lessons. These are the lessons a student cannot learn from a book, they learn from example and their own experience. This is why we continue to pick up our bootstraps and keep moving forward.
In the past couple of weeks, I know of three productions that have had to start all over. All three companies had created their super-objective and commanding image, prepared their scripts, begun costuming, designed a set, gathered props, etc. Their students had already memorized their lines, were blocking and developing a character. Then, because of some unexpected obstacle, the current production had to be halted. I am afraid in today’s society, too many people would give up and quit – but not theatre teachers. We know how to look at the worst of situations and turn them into the best possible scenario. What a gift we give our students.
We all could tell stories about companies who pulled together to overcome complications – stories about changing productions with few rehearsals left before a contest or opening night, students who failed to commit, administration that stopped a show or concept, unfortunate accidents or sicknesses. This list could go on and on. Very few times can we name the times a company quit because of these unfortunate incidents. Instead, we have watched as directors and students pulled together to produce quality theatre. More importantly, we have watched as directors taught young adults how to persevere in life. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We cannot quit in the face of adversity,
As I watched a group of young actors enthusiastically welcome a production change due to the lack of commitment from some of their classmates and peers, I stood in awe. I never heard one complain. I never heard one say they could not do it or that it could not be done. I watched these students embrace the challenge with a contagious eagerness. Those students are the ones who will survive in life. They are the ones who will succeed in their endeavors because they did not quit when it was difficult. They backed up, re-evaluated the situation and embraced a solution.
As theatre teachers, we begin modeling how to persist through adversity early in the production process. When we begin designing a set and have to adapt our vision with the reality of the space, contest or our budget, we are modeling perseverance. When we find the need to recast the lead actor, we are demonstrating how to work through adversity. Students watch us face an obstacle, re-evaluate and develop a solution through all aspects of the production process. I realize now, that every time we adjust our plan of action to meet the needs or restrictions at the moment, we are modeling life lessons to our students. What a gift we give our students every day without even realizing it.
As you continue preparing for your competition season, don’t disregard the little lessons you are teaching everyday. Every time you stay positive in the face of adversity, your students are watching you. Every time you refuse to give up or quit and, instead, continue to work hard, re-evaluate and keep going, you are modeling the lessons in life that make people succeed. Those lessons are more important than any administrative evaluation or trophy you can win.