Ever since I was a little kid I've always loved being on stage and performing. Whether it was my school play, musical, or showcase...you name it, I was there! Being a part of the creative arts community meant I could express myself in many shapes and forms. As a cast member, I could be someone different. I could be whoever the audience needed me to be. Funny, witty, or brooding, I love experimenting with different personalities. But it's not just the people on the stage that deserve the spotlight. The people that construct the sets, lighting, props, and costuming all deserve recognition for their effort and work. From a retired theater kid (sadly because of COVID-19), these are my top 5 reasons why you should be part of your school's next musical.
Learn a new skill
Being in production doesn't always mean you have to be in the spotlight. There are so many possibilities, you just have to find one for yourself. One of my favorite things about being part of a stage crew is learning new skills or expanding on pre-existing skills. Learning to build sets, create costumes and props was a new realm for me which I thoroughly enjoyed. In 2018, my school put on the musical “The Man of Steel”. It was a massive production and I enjoyed getting involved and having a creative outlet. It was so much fun and a good way to try a different role. In previous plays I've been in, painting and crafting props for the show was something I had never really done before. But I'm so glad I gave it a go. If you have an eye for detail or even an interest in drawing or painting, I strongly urge you to join your school play to help with sets and prop design. It will help you refine your skills as an artist, and it may introduce you to a new technique or style.
The Man of Steel cast 2018
If you are not an artsy type and enjoy jamming out with your friends, Being part of the play's music ensemble or orchestra is another way to show off your musical flair. No matter your experience level, there will be a position in the band for you. Whether you are a seasoned saxophone player or a beginner percussionist, you should join the play. It is an awesome way to further your skills if you are a beginner and if you are experienced, maybe being the head of your section in the band will extend yourself as a musician and a performer.
If you don't think you are creative at all, but are strong and want to be involved, the stage crew is the place for you. That you are backstage and amongst all the action. The stage crew sets up the sets and props on the stage and make sure it fits the storyline of the play. Moving set pieces not being used, or putting new props on the stage is the main part of the job. Being a part of the stage crew also means interacting with the lighting crew and microphones, which also may be a new avenue you might not have explored yet. When you are on a stage crew, you are the backbone of the production. Lots of people (the cast, lighting crew, the orchestra, and the list continues) rely on you to get the job done and do it right. It also means being able to get to know different elements of the show and the cast, which not many people get the chance to.
Meet new people
As an extrovert, this is one of my favorite parts of being in a play or musical. Getting to meet and socialize with like-minded individuals in an environment specifically for your shared interest. Depending on the size of your school, it means you can form friendships and bonds with people in different years or grades. In “The Man of Steel”, the musical was across 3 campuses (I went to a college, so our school was divided into 3 separate schools.) which allowed me to meet so many new people from different campuses. I enjoyed being able to socialize and talk to others about things I couldn't before. For example, the new musical movie that just came out or the Hamilton soundtrack. Being in a room filled with similar people has a warm and fuzzy feeling of acceptance and community.
If you are not super extroverted and a little shy or awkward when meeting people for the first time, finding a small group or even one person you connect with will be easy. I believe people within a cast who have similar interests gel together to be able to strengthen each other's performance or skills. In my experience, being in production creates a no-judgment zone, where people can talk about their theater kid dreams and interests without being scrutinized. A way I found to connect with the cast and crew is to organize a social event for everyone, whether it's trivia or just going to get something to eat. This allows people to break the ice and make sure a respectful and welcoming environment.
If you are stuck for tips on how to connect or get to know some for the first time click here for more tips.
Best of all, you are a part of a group/team exploring the creative process of putting on a production. Some friends I have made from my school plays and musicals are lifelong, and I would never have met them if I hadn't attended. So, if you want to expand your social circle or make new buddies with similar interests, I would 100% join the school play.
This is also why I fell in love with theater. It allowed me a way to express myself in a different creative capacity. Joining a theater club or drama society means you have a different avenue for self-expression. During high school, I felt as if I didn't have a place to express myself fully. I could never extend myself creatively during school. So logically, I decided to join my school's drama club and then the school musical, which opened up different avenues for me.
In high school, it can be difficult to find out what crowd you belong to or who you are. So being able to express your passion for the arts, or you have a talent you want to share, being a part of a cast can help you grow and find an outlet for self-expression. When I'm part of the cast, my character allows me to explore different aspects of my personality. For example, when I was in “The Man of Steel”, my character was Countess Olga, a Russian supervillain. She was out to destroy the Man of Steel. Olga was strong, calculated, bold, and unapologetically herself. At the time, I was grappling with how people viewed me, but playing Olga allowed me to put into practice some of her traits in my personal life, like not caring what others think. I enjoy playing the antagonist or anti-hero. They have so much substance also killer backstories and room for experimentation of character.
Even if you are not in a lead role, being in the ensemble is also an opportunity to explore different personas and expressions of character. A lead actor is nothing with the support of the ensemble and the rest of the cast. If you are shy or testing the waters to see if being part of a theater group, the ensemble is the perfect way to start. Being in the ensemble still entails a good amount of stage time as well. Such as if there is a scene taking place in an office and your character is an office worker. You can be an efficient office worker, the lazy one, the office gossip. The possibilities are endless. There are so many ways to express your qualities or try out others. Don't be disheartened by being in the supporting cast. Their performance is integral for the story to make sense as the ensemble you bring the stage to life. Regardless of your role, whether is lead or ensemble, you will shine bright.
No, I'm not saying “join your school play ONLY to improve your grades and end of term report”. That's a big NO, but if you are doing drama, music, or art, being part of the play is a way to expand your portfolio and also experience. So if you do eventually want to branch out into theater or the creative arts, you have this credit to show for it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed having the credit afterward, but I used it to show my dedication and team working skills. Join the school play to show that, yes, you may be a magnificent bass guitarist, but you are committed to projects and a team player. I think that school productions provide a wide range of opportunities that you can showcase to future employers or other creative arts projects. That you are willing to put in the time, energy, and effort (even if it's just for the extra credit originally). I would suggest being a member of the stage crew for the experience and also skills if it's only for credit. Being a part of the play also looks good on college and university applications. I strongly suggest NOT joining the play if your only intent is to get extra credit, because you won't be able to fully enjoy it and could also ruin other people's first experience with theater, so think wisely before you commit !!!
Stepping out of your comfort zone
Joining the school drama club, play or musical creates space for people to build self-confidence and step out of their comfort zone. The whole process of signing up, auditioning and then the formation of the production allows people to slowly come out of their shells. Over the many rehearsals, people gradually build up their self-confidence. Being in a play means you can blossom into a more confident performer or individual.
In my experience when I was in “The Man of Steel”, they asked me to learn to dance with fire. I said straight up 'no way are you kidding me?'. But then about 5 minutes passed, and I came around to the idea. I went to a training session and fell in love with fire twirling, and it has given me so many new and exciting opportunities because I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new. The rest of the cast and the crew will be forgiving and understand that stepping out of your comfort takes courage and that mistakes will happen. Don't let this deter you from taking risks.
Olga (Maeve Sparrow/me) dancing with fire on stage 2018. Also, fire twirling at School Spectacular 2019.
I doubt your school play will ask you to dance with fire (it's a very niche and out-there request) but it might be to try a different art style, play a unique instrument. Besides that, just being a part of a creative project, in general, might require you to step out of your comfort zone. Which, ultimately, will help you build your self-confidence. Who knows you might find a new talent that you didn't even know you had.
In conclusion, there are hundreds of reasons for you to join your school's next play or musical, but these are the reasons that inspire me the most to continue supporting the theater. I hope I have supplied you with a realistic overview of what it's like to be in a cast. But also the ways that it can be fun, interesting and an all-round new and exciting experience. If you've been in your school play or musical and have some other reasons, I missed out on let me know on my Instagram!