“Reflection” on JCompanyApril 25, 2018
My clammy hands were shaking at the speed of a hummingbird. It was my very first audition and I was completely out of my element. I was a small, timid ten-year-old who was mute in certain large public situations due to bullying at school. I hadn’t found my place: a community that had a bold acceptance for the unconventional. I only revealed my playful personality at home and in front of select adults.
To be frank, the audition didn’t go so well. I sang “Reflection” from “Mulan.” I blamed my discomfort on the accompanist playing the song too fast (I’m sorry I blamed you, accompanist!) I held it together until the last person sang their audition song and then ran out of the room crying. Despite my salty tears, I was cast as a daughter in the ensemble in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Little did I know that this would become the community I was searching for and that nine years and 25 shows later, as a senior in high school, I would be writing a reflection on the many values I learned in my time at JCompany.
In my very first rehearsals, I instantly could relate to my peers surrounding me. I admired the “older kids.” They became my idols and role models and I emulated their talent and how they treated the younger kids in hopes that one day I would become that leader and role model. I learned leadership skills and watched how they worked as a team instead of taking the spotlight only for themselves. I also discovered how to treat others with respect and acceptance, specifically (or especially) those with different abilities, backgrounds, or attributes than I have.
In my second JCompany show, I was cast as a dancer, way above my skill level at the time. This role proved to be very difficult for me. The choreographer informed me that I should not have been cast in that role and that it seemed that I was not qualified to do it. This is when I learned one of my ultimate lessons: I have the power to face rejection and failure through positive affirmations and constantly pushing to improve in a healthy, positive way. Through extra dedication, I showed the choreographer that he had cast me correctly. I gained his respect, while discovering my own abilities. Through this lesson, I was able to later comfort and help younger cast members find their strength and reach their potential.
Theater became therapeutic for me. It was a place where I was able to escape and cope with life’s challenges by infusing them into the character I was playing at the time and using my feelings and emotions as theatrical emphasis. In particular, during “Children of Eden,” when I was an innocent 11-year-old, a dear friend and father figure to me passed away. I was able to cope with my grief, finding hope and strength, when Joey and the two actors playing Adam would sing “The Hardest Part of Love,” a beautiful song encapsulating the challenge we face when letting go.
Theater gifted me a laboratory for the study of life, allowing me to explore the human experience through performance. I learned about suffering, salvation, creation, loss, survival, acceptance, human strength and above all: love. I grew in my ability to be vulnerable in front of 500 people in ways I never thought I could be, emulating secretaries, prostitutes, princesses, animals, women with immense wealth and women in immense poverty. I continued to discover common values in myself and others.
When I entered high school, new academic challenges arose. I had to figure out how to balance my schoolwork with my theatrical passions and other responsibilities. I learned invaluable time management skills when daily rehearsals cut into study time. I applied stage makeup while reciting AP Biology terms and completed math problems backstage between scenes. My time management became my secret weapon that helped me survive and succeed in onerous classes.
As I reflect on my theatrical experiences, I am tremendously grateful for my time at JCompany. Theater is the biggest gift you can give a young person, allowing them to explore, persevere, connect and find purpose. I truly believe everyone can benefit from theater. JCompany has enriched me and many others with a supportive home to grow and flourish. Theater has changed me for the better, providing me with a confident purpose that harnesses my imagination.