by Avery Daniels Dramaturgy/Education Apprentice
(This blog post is part of a continued series created by our apprentices about how and why they fell in love with the theatre)
When I think back on my relationship with theater I have a lot of regrets for a twenty three year old.
When I was younger I went to see my first community production of Annie Get Your Gun and my love of theater was born. My favorite game was to make up plays and elaborately stage them with my friends. As I grew, my passion for theater never faded but my level of participation did. It was slow at first, but by the time I finished high school I was convinced that everything about me was wrong and that I would never get to work or exist in the world of theater.
I attribute this to my high school drama teacher. She hated me. Looking back I have tried to pinpoint the moment that this happened or what I did or said to make her discourage my participation in the theater program but I always come up empty. I remember after I performed a monologue that had taken me weeks to rehearse and perfect, my classmates offered their compliments and constructive criticism, but all my teacher said to me was, “Do you know that you have a weird walk?” I did not. After another particularly thrilling improv performance, again, my classmates were full of positive encouragement, but can you guess what my teacher said? “Your hair is very distracting. Next time you go on stage, put it up.”
It went on like this all four years of high school. She critiqued my body and my appearance and things I couldn’t change until I was convinced that I was kidding myself; I could never be an actress or work in theater, everything about me was wrong. The thing that I regret most about this time is not the way that my teacher acted, but the defense mechanism I created out of a mix of her words, my own insecurities, and a misguided belief that I didn’t deserve to be out in the world or have what I most wanted. I didn’t believe the positive encouragement of my peers but, instead, absorbed the cutting words of the woman I took to be an authority on drama and performance. I buried my love of theater away, locking it somewhere deep down inside. In my most formative years, I convinced myself that I had lost interest, that I didn’t want to be in the theater, and I believed my own delusions for a long time.
Once in college, I flirted with the idea of theater again but was still convinced I didn’t really want to participate. I danced around the periphery of the world, tentatively taking classes or attending events. But I was scared. I stayed an outsider for almost two years until a professor asked if I had ever thought about being a playwright. I hadn’t. With that small encouragement the box that contained my love of theater started to open. I began to see myself working at a company and the negativity of my high school experience seemed almost trivial. My joy and love of theater would not remain contained and, after some initial anxiety, I let it out. I dove head first into what I wanted and my classmates and professors made room for me. I was finally a part of the world that had always filled me with the purest form of happiness.
It’s taken me a long time to undo the damage of those years. I let my teacher unconsciously influence the way that I saw myself and my place in the world. But standing on the precipice of this next step, I finally feel whole again. I feel like the me that I was always supposed to be and I am so grateful for this apprenticeship and Gloucester Stage. Gloucester Stage has given me the opportunity to right the wrongs done in the past and leave that negativity behind me. I’m not the girl with the distracting hair or the funny walk any more. I’m the dramaturgy/education apprentice at Gloucester Stage and I could not be more proud. I was always supposed to be here and I look back on my detour not with anger but with gratitude. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. Today, I am guided by living honestly and accepting myself and others exactly the way they are. I will go forward into this new position following these beliefs. And I can’t wait to dive in, to roll around in the glee I tried to suppress for years, and to finally be a part of the world I always felt calling me on to a life of fulfillment, inclusion, and most of all, joy.
*GSC Blog posts are the select opinions of individual employees and may not necessarily reflect the views of Gloucester Stage as a whole.