For many, a theatre program, especially those that focus on students, we can feel a certain feeling of family with those people. I know this first hand. For the last two and a half years, every time I enter my home theatre for an audition, rehearsal, or otherwise, I hear exclaims of “Mom!” from the younger members of our youth program. I honestly don’t remember how or exactly when the nickname started, but now that it has, I am so glad that it did. As I prepare for one of my final auditions with my theatre’s youth program, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the last two years that I have spent as Muncie Civic Theatre’s youth “mom”.
I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the constant checking on students who had a rough time at school, or maybe the fact that I’m a walking first aid kit for those students who are always getting hurt, or maybe it was the fact that I brought in tech week “goodie bags” to help us get through a very stressful Monday tech but by the end of the Fall 2015 production of “Once On This Island Jr.”, I had been given the label of “mom”. From then on out, I was the go-to girl for any student with a problem, big or small.
Now, this “job” (if you will) is not to be taken lightly. In the time I’ve spent as a seeming medium between shy students and overbearing adults, I have had to deal with a lot of things that I never thought I would deal with as a teenager. I’ve helped middle-schoolers (and some high schoolers) through their rough breakups, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and abusive homes. It seems like a lot, huh?
With all of this said, with my ever-so-stressful life of interning at the theatre, working part-time, finishing my senior year of high school, and finding time to fit in about ten different productions this year, why do I continue to take on this extra responsibility that doesn’t necessarily have to exist? My answer is simple. We live in a world where all of these problems have become too “normal” for adults. For someone just overhearing a conversation, they could hear someone talking about how they want to kill themselves, but just brush it off as them being dramatic. With a person, such as myself, there to intervene and separate the teenage drama from the actual, serious issues that need to be addressed, adults are more eager to help if they have someone there who can help make clear what needs to be dealt with.
If you’re reading this, you probably know this already, but a lot of us theatre kids are not necessarily the most popular kids in social circles at school. Now, you’d think that theatre would always be perfect and everyone would love each other, but I can say now that that is false. Now, I’m by no means saying that everyone hates each other (at least at my theatre), but we are still middle school/high school students, and we are still going to form cliques that we feel safe in. One of the great things about being a “mom” to all of these kids is that, while you may have a group of friends that you’re closer with than others, you are still everyone’s friend. Yes, even little Sally who has sat by herself at every rehearsal for the past two years.
You will find a way to connect with every person in your show. And with some people, it may take a long time to break through and show them that you really do care. I know. I was one of those kids. I had trust issues and wouldn’t let anyone in, but because one girl kept pushing me and eventually broke through, that is why I am where I am today. And I will tell you, that nothing will feel better than finally breaking through to that child that feels like no one really likes them, or everyone just pities them, etc. I had a kid like that once who I honestly didn’t break until our latest show. When I finally got through to them, it was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life to hear them say:
“I didn’t think everyone would ever love me. My family never loved me, noone at school ever loved me, but you saw me alone and wanted to be my friend. Then, when I pushed away, you didn’t just give up like others, you came back. Thank you.”
This. It is conversations like the one above us that make it worth the extra $35 a show I spend on buying snacks, buying special things for tech week. Just to know that one kid’s life is better, that’s all you need.
Disclaimer: I want to make perfectly clear that I am NOT saying that someone in any position similar to mine should have to deal with some of the more adult things, such as talking to a student’s parents or the authorities. These are things that an adult should be dealing with, and if they aren’t, someone in charge needs to be made aware of the problem as soon as possible.
Olivia Miner is a high school senior and actress, having been awarded by National Youth Arts for her work at Elkhart Civic Theatre, as well as being a recipient of the “Clarence and Carol Casazza Excellence in Theatre Scholarship” through Muncie Civic Theatre. She has previously worked as a writer for the Panther Paw at Plantation Key School in Plantation Key, FL and the Bruin Informer at Blackford High School in Hartford City, IN. She plans on pursuing a degree in theatre education with a minor in deaf studies.