10 Life Lessons Theatre Taught Me
Sara Seif Solaiman
- OnStage Egypt Columnist
It’s not all about flashy costumes and a bunch of weird people acting out a play together.
In today’s world, it can be extremely heartbreaking to see how society views young people and their relationship with the arts. Theatrical arts rarely gets any funding compared to other subjects in any educational institution and it’s always the first to cut off with budget cuts. No offense to all the other subjects, all subjects are important and that’s exactly the point, all subjects are equally important to society. Education is key to the development of the world, and the diversity of various educational specializations is key to such development. However, the arts often times get overlooked because of the stereotypes that portray artists as unsuccessful in society, which is simply not true. As a student in school and University now, I actively participated in theatre arts, and I believe it taught me many important, indispensable life lessons. And these are ten reasons why theatre is as important as any subject and teaches the most valuable life lessons.
To begin with, Theatre teaches its actors to be very self-aware. In theater you really have to be conscious of everything that is going on around you and specifically everything going on within yourself. Actors must be very aware of their physicality , tone and facial expressions all aligned for being fully in character for a role their playing . And this is the key to becoming a successful actor and as well as a productive human being in society. Being fully aware of yourself and your capabilities, having to be constantly aware of the physical space you are moving through is fundamental for productivity in any field in the world.
Being open and receptive to criticism
No actor has ever gave his best performance without some criticism and notes from his director or scene partner. Actors in theatre always strive their best to put on a phenomenal show; which is almost impossible without getting feedback from people off stage with better experience. Not only does theatre expose actors to criticism but makes them by time very receptive to comments and taking them into consideration, becoming good listeners and learning to respect different point of views.
All the way from exercises, to rehearsals and performances acting does require collaboration and full cooperation with other cast members to work as a team. From learning the basics of the trade to actually perfecting your skills and performance. Learning how to act involves sharing thoughts and ideas, giving and receiving a lot of constructive feedback, and supporting your fellow actors as you work to make each other better in a safe and supportive environment because theatre is truly one of those things where it is one for all and all for one. If one actor is down or not as good as the others the whole show goes down. Caring for each of your fellow colleagues and their performance as equally as we care for ourselves is not something that is common in our everyday life, it’s rather the other way round; trying to excel whist keeping others down. Trusting your troupe is another lesson theatre teaches its people. If you don’t put trust in your scene mates, you’re just a school kid standing on a raised platform. Trusting directors as well. In every aspect of life, you have to learn to take direction from people who know more.
Time management is crucial for all theatre people. Any theatre student does understand the value of time and deadlines because there’s no such thing as postponing and delaying the show or not having fixed timings for rehearsals. Rehearsal time is always set and all cast and crew members have to be there on time always cause their basically no “other” time in the day for rehearsing. A rehearsal process is relatively short, and you’re putting on a show for a paying audience so it’s no joke. Time is money!
Dealing with all types of different people
Realistically speaking there are difficult and different types of people everywhere we go in our life but in theatre, it’s pretty much that one place where all diverse types of people meet with the widest range of personality types. And everyone is bound to work with lazy scene partners, rough directors, some divas and many other different shades of human beings. But in theatre there’s no such thing as backing off or not knowing how to deal with these people; you have to be professional and pretend like you have absolutely no problem with them onstage in front of hundreds if not thousands of people. On the other side of the stage with the Technical crew, they must work impeccably backstage, whether like the people that they’re working with or not.
Confidence and Public speaking skills
You know they always say actors do anything? Well, it’s technically true. Performers are truly some of the bravest people in the world. They wake up every day for rehearsals pretending to be other characters , with exercises push you too places you don’t really go to everyday in your life for exploring yourself then get up and leave a piece of themselves on a stage for hundreds of people. It is one of those things that makes people comfortable in their own skin by time not fearing the stage or people. Theatre gives young people an early opportunity to fine tune their public speaking skills and very confident, which is a highly sought after skill in the career world.
After dozens of auditions for a specific role you want to play and perhaps not getting it, you learn to make peace with yourself not shaking your self-confidence. But it teaches you how to be realistic not only about your talent, but about your cast type, and I think this translates into real life. It teaches you that you can’t always take everything to heart, and that not everything is always personal sometimes it’s a matter of suitability not whether your good or not.
Becoming adaptive with good Problem solving skills
When it comes to theatre, live theatre is truly one of the craziest things that a person can ever be a part of. Anything, ANYTHING could happen. Because of this live aspect, theatre students learn how to be quick problem solvers. Partner drop lines and you’ll have to be very adaptive and continue the show without the audience having to figure it out. Or perhaps the props they use accidentally fall out of place, it still has to be seen as part of the show. It teaches students how to be quick problem solvers, improvise and make it seem very normal as well.
Treat everyone with respect, especially those lending a helping hand.
That understanding will extend in every career out there, from dishwashers to IT support, theater breeds respect for less visible cast members. It teaches actors how to respect everyone equally from the person sewing the button, to the custodian organizing the theatrical space all the way to the stage manager putting the show together all equally. There is no difference between all these people, they all equally contribute to the show and equally are respected.
Don’t let the problems of everyday life get you down.
As they say “the show must go on “. People face problems with their life every day, ups and downs. Imagine a team with around 20 members where every member doesn’t show up for one day because life got him down. There will never be a show then. It teaches you how to go even when you’re feeling down.
Photo Credit: Lisa Ventre