It is my senior year at Yorktown High school, and I can’t wait to walk into the theatre classroom. Yesterday we sat in a circle on the floor and played the ABC game. We shut our eyes, focused our energy into the middle of the circle, and recited the alphabet. The catch was that only one person could say a letter at a time, and if a letter was said by more than one person, we had to start over. We began slowly, but the energy in the circle gave me a feeling that we would make it to Z effortlessly. Sure enough, we make it from A to Z on our first try. This seemingly easy game has had a great influence on me, not only as a performer, but as a person.
This year is my fourth year in theatre with Ms. Cadby, and my views of her and the class have changed drastically. As a freshman, our class participated in seemingly stupid games and unusual bonding exercises, one of which was the ABC game. The first time we tried, we barely made it past the letter F without having to start over. Many people started to laugh, while others were frustrated by the lack of focus in the group. Though we tried many times after that first game, we still couldn’t reach the end of the alphabet. Throughout that first year, I didn’t get the point of playing the game, and I had no idea how relevant it was to theatre.
The experience with the ABC game was indicative of my experiences with other, more personal games and exercises. They were difficult: I was afraid to let down my guard and let my classmates get to know the real me. I was so caught up in trying to be “cool” that I didn’t fully participate in the exercises. Many exercises included touching and closely interacting with my classmates, which made me very nervous; though I knew that my classmates were as self-conscious and as nervous as I was, I felt isolated from the group and didn’t know how to get in. My teacher, Ms. Cadby, was very enthusiastic about the class, but sometimes she became so hyper and unorthodox, it scared me away. I began to think that the class was too weird and Ms. Cadby was too crazy.
For the rest of the year, Ms. Cadby tried everything to bring her students out of their shell. She told us that the main goal of her theatre class is to get people to expand their “comfort zone,” to confront ideas that make them feel uncomfortable. My biggest fear in theatre was that my ideas were wrong or that my creative pieces weren’t good enough. Because of my insecurity I refused to take the class seriously. Although I could tell that my refusal to step outside myself was beginning to frustrate her, she never forced me to do anything. She also never gave up hope that I could become the theatre student she knew I could become.
When we started working on our finals, I procrastinated, and had very little to show for my rough draft performance. After that negative experience Ms. Cadby took me aside and said, “It’s frustrating to see you not participating because I see so much potential in you. If you try, you can excel in class and in theatre.”
I didn’t know how to respond, but I told myself that I would work hard to go beyond my comfort zone. I told myself that I would put forth a wholehearted effort in theatre.
That dreadful day was a turning point in my life, because by expressing her confidence in me, I was able to realize my own ability to connect with other people. Since my freshman year, I have completely transformed my feelings towards theatre. I have not only participated in class but also in five school productions, and am no longer afraid to express my own ideas or present my own personal pieces. Now that I am engaged in exercises and games, I am part of the group, and accepted into the circle, and it’s okay to appear stupid or “uncool.” Opinions are only opinions, I’ve found, and that axiom has made it easier for me to stand up in front of a class or in a full auditorium and feel secure within “my own skin.”
Yesterday’s ABC game reached Z effortlessly, but not without the hard work of understanding my individual role in the group. Theatre has made me understand that each person is vital to the collective circle, but that one person is no better or worse than the group as a whole. “It’s not about you” is our department’s motto, and yet I belong with confidence as an individual. And it is this motto that I now happily sport on my Yorktown theatre sweatpants.