I am a fifteen year old girl. I like being a fifteen year old girl. But I really treasure the time I have spent as a munchkin, a bird, and a snobby girlfriend. I am referring to the years that I have been involved in drama, and I believe that by becoming someone else, we can all learn who we really are.
A huge part of acting is character development, which is a fancy word for exploring a character’s personality. All actors try to speak from true experiences and emotions so their words seem realistic, not scripted. An acting teacher once stared through me and said, “What does this character want?” People’s wants are a window to their values. And if you can understand people’s morals, you can figure out just about anyone.
Characters’ reactions help the audience understand a scene. This might seem useless in real life, but anticipating reactions has saved me from a good deal of embarrassment. The other day, I rode the school bus and was viciously mocked by another girl. She was trying to make her life better by making mine worse. I felt sorry for her. Not because I cared about her feelings, but because I understood where they came from. Many times I have been cast in plays as the mean girl. I knew that lashing out would have only encouraged her taunting, and in my life, I like to keep the drama onstage.
Shows are not built on individual characters. What really matters is how a group of characters interact. Much of rehearsal time is spent getting to know the other cast members. You see them on their good days, on their bad days, and on plenty of other days in between. After every show, I go through a medical phenomenon known as “drama withdrawal.” Theatre has taught me how good it feels to be taken care of by a group of people I respect. A strong cast can pull through any mishap, onstage or off.
Defining a character has taught me how to define myself. There are things I have to do, like math homework and chores. But the rest of my part in this show is up to me. I can choose to be happy. I can fade into the background or stand front and center. I can only hope that when I take my final bow, I’ll be proud of my character.
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