Dee Dee O'Connor
- OnStage Washington State Columnist
With theatre programs diminishing in schools everywhere, it will be up to community theaters to help foster the next generation of actors, directors, stage managers, and techies. That means encouraging young people to get involved. It also means recognizing, utilizing, and grooming their nascent talent. Which brings me to a story about a young man, I’ll call “Paul.”
Paul, a middle-schooler, auditioned for The Miracle Worker and got the part of Percy, a young servant in the Keller household. Although a smaller role than some of the others, Paul seemed to instinctively understand that there are no small roles in theatre and gave it his all. He wasn’t afraid to ask questions or make decisions. He took director’s notes with grace, respect and always a thank you. He was even able to apply his make up like a pro after one lesson. He paid attention to all the details and after a few weeks it was difficult to believe that this was his first play.
But that wasn’t all. With Paul’s sharp attention to detail, he quickly became our de facto Stage Manger during rehearsals. Of his own accord, he took on the responsibility making sure each scene was set correctly, wrangled actors, and was always eager to help. He took his responsibilities seriously in a way more adults would be well-served to emulate. Once our Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Mangers were in place, Paul showed them the ropes and continued being an integral part of the stage crew.
This is such a great story because it illustrates how theatre can help kids grow in unexpected and wonderful ways. As for Paul, well he tried out for his school play and got the lead. His mother says he is hooked!
Photo: Peter Cawley