Mikayla Cassandra Moats
One of my most profound memories of all time is sitting in a high school in Boerne, Texas, talking about theatre with other sixteen year olds from all over the state. Specifically, about how small towns in Texas often lack the necessary amount of “weird theatre kids” that we found in that room, about how that classroom in Boerne, Texas at the Texas Nonprofit Theaters’ YOUTH Conference (or TNT) had just the right amount of weird theatre people.
In a state where it sometimes feels like being a theatre kid means being ostracized by your friends more interested in football than Footloose, it can be hard to find people like you.
Especially when some schools, like mine, have no to little theatre. Luckily for me, I’ve found my place in the local community theatre, Brazos Valley TROUPE. Even there though, most of the kids are so much younger than me, and those who aren’t I’ve known since I was younger. It gets old trying to tell the same six people about how much you love Hamilton again when they want to tell you how much they love Wicked. Again. You know their opinions, and they know yours, so after a while, there’s nothing new to talk about. It often feels like there’s no new insight to get on different musicals in a football town.
At TNT though, there’s always someone who’s going to the conference for the first time. There’s also someone you met for the first time four years ago and they’re the most important person in your life now. Someone’s always wanting to be included by strangers, someone’s friends are always saying things like “you just have to meet so and so from Artsview because they’re so nice” or “I guarantee you’ll meet at least one friend, don’t worry.” The conference is not a competition, which is one of the most fantastic things about it, because it feels like everyone wants everyone to succeed in what they’re doing, year after year. I have been to five TNTs in my lifetime, in places like Lewisville, Boerne and Bastrop, and I can say without a doubt, it feels like one of the safest communities where people can just get together and love theatre.
TNT itself is almost a weeklong conference and every year a different city will host it. It starts in June, a youth theatre company has a group of their kids and chaperones load up into cars or on a bus or plane and get ready to head out to whatever city is hosting it. Next, everyone is greeted by the current president of TNT at the conference, and given the information they need to know about who’s hosting, what the venue is and any general housekeeping things while the first company set to perform sets up backstage. Each performing company has an allotted time to set up, perform and tear down. There’s a break, and the process repeats for the first block. Then there are workshops, often including topics such as diction, acting, costuming, stage combat, dance, or other theatre related things. More companies perform throughout the week, and there are plenty of social events that everyone can choose to participate in. At the end of the week there’s an awards ceremony for outstanding actors, outstanding members of workshops and other things. Finally, everyone says their goodbyes and they exchange Twitters and Facebooks and wait for the next year.
This conference is one that brings those who attend more friends, mentors and teachers in theatre than any other place I’ve ever been, while still being fun. The last two years Dr. Jason Moats’ workshops has created videos where members of the conference are asked questions such as to name one thing to describe TNT; two of the most common answers were “friendship” and “home.” I think that really sums it up; TNT is many of these people’s home to leave and return, year after year.