Thursday, May 22, 2014

Act Well Your Part

My daughter's International Thespian Society patch, photo by Jeno Berta

 Greetings All:

This week, I had the rare and wonderful opportunity to attend an International Thespian Society induction ceremony for Troupe 856, Pleasant Valley High School.  My daughter, Cassie was inducted and won a couple of awards.  I am incredibly proud of her for both her accomplishments and how she has sincerely embraced the ideas of theater:  perform with passion, give the audience your absolute best and most of all, respect your fellow artists.

There was a surprise part of the program where previously induced Thespians were invited to recite the oath.  As I am one, it was nice to be included.  I think the last time I recited it Ronald Reagan was POTUS.

I love theater.  I love that my kids are discovering it.  I consider myself wildly fortunate that I get to sit back and watch this amazing ensemble of young actors get on stage and entertain us.  More than once, we parents bemoan the late drive out to someone's house to pick up kids from a cast party.  Yet truth be told we're glad to do it.  The kids earned this party.  

Another very cool thing happened at the ceremony.  Bill Myatt, the drama director, presented the final awards of the evening, "Thespians of the Year." These awards went to a couple of profoundly talented young people.  However, they were often far from the heat of the spotlight and the warmth of the crowd.  They spent the bulk of their time on stage well behind the curtain.  They did the sets, the tech stuff, costumes, props, all the things that never get the same credit (not even close) as do the actors.  And yet without these professionals, no show would get to opening night.  As I watched the awards being presented and heard the roar of approval from the crowd I thought this was such a class act.

The auditorium at North High School in Davenport named for a great friend and mentor, Paul Holzworth.  Photo by J. Berta

For me, it's impossible to sit in a high school auditorium and not think back to how much fun I had in theater.  I could not sing a note, so there's no musical lead I can brag of.  But I did get to play a couple of great roles, including Candy from Of Mice and Men.  Paul Holzworth directed that show.  It was his last year at West High School in Davenport and then he went on to carve out a future for theater at North High School.  It was w-a-y too long after North opened that they finally got a performing arts center.  When they did, they named it after Paul.  Well done Wildcats, well done.

Theater also teaches a painful yet important lesson-how to accept disappointment with lesser roles.  It is completely understandable to want a role and be crushed when it does not come to pass.  I remember being furious at not getting a bigger role in my high school play my senior year.  I got over it,...eventually.  Yet in retrospect, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me.  It gave me the chance to recall the part of my Thespian pledge to, "Act well your part, there all the honor lies."  

Everyone has faced such situations.  The trick is to make the best of your situation and give your best to whatever is your endeavor.  Sure, this applies to acting.  It also applies to mundane things as well.  When you give your all to an effort, especially a collective effort like a play or a musical, you can be proud that your part mattered.  Not only is that something to be proud of, it also makes the experience a whole lot more fun.

So here's to all the Thespians of Troupe 856 and all the actors in the world.  Thank you for entertaining us.  Thank you for having the courage to get on stage and share your hopes and fears with us.  Thanks to the educators like Paul Holtzworth and Bill Myatt who take the Stewardship of young actors as a sacred trust. 

Finally, here's to the person somewhere who will fight through the terror of walking onto a stage to audition for a show.  They may be a natural.  If so, great!  More likely, they are someone who's talent is limited and raw.  They will end up in a chorus or crowd scene.  No matter.  That show will be immensely better for that person having the guts to perform.  That is an honorable actor.  we'd all be fortunate indeed to have a seat in that theater when the curtain goes up on opening night.

Be well my friends,

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