Theatre – a culture where emotion, struggle, and connection are the messages that are brought to life from the depths of every wonderful storyteller. Thespians put their heart and soul into delivering raw human experiences in such a pure form uninhibited by society’s standards. Laying these bits of humanity at the audience’s feet allows individuals to connect, empathize, and struggle right along with the characters. Here, emotion and struggle is accepted, but once we step foot out of the theater…
Why is it no longer ok?
Why do we have to hide or water down our experiences?
Why can’t we sit with someone in their struggle as we do with the characters?
When does it become too real?
There are many lessons we can learn from the epic stories that are shared with us in the theater.
Most characters will encounter a great struggle. In the depths of their journey they too may feel there is no end in sight, no rest for the wicked, and no one who truly understands. We don’t see them hiding their emotions and burying their hardships. Instead we see them meeting them head on and doing whatever needs to be done to honor their struggle but never get stuck in it.
If we can learn to take care of ourselves in the midst of struggle, we will build our resilience to cope during these difficult journeys and we are able to better handle the adversity in front of us.
Moments of despair can feel never ending at times, and even though we may enjoy belting out our favorite heartbroken ballads, it somehow doesn’t feel as graceful as that in real life. People speak about perseverance as though it is always driven by strength, passion, and the unwavering drive forward. In reality, it’s not always that bold.
Sometimes it’s just quietly refusing to give up, or ensuring that you have the support needed to help you through this difficult journey.
Great stories expand our horizons and show us that support, love, and acceptance can be found in some of the most unlikely of places. It is simple to look right in front of us for what we feel is right and comfortable, but that’s not always where we find our best supporters. Sometimes our biggest support can be a loyal animal, an inspiring stranger, or a misunderstood enemy.
It is when we reach deep into our souls that we can start to see what and who we really need in our lives to help us become the best versions of ourselves.
Along with struggle, theater also celebrates strength. A human experience that doesn’t always come easily and takes some effort, passion, and hope. Think back on some of your favorite plays and musicals. When thinking about the character’s struggles, can you place your finger on at least one thing that kept them hopeful? Touchstones they come back to in times of need, giving them strength to continue moving forward in their journey.
Our feelings of hope have so much connection to our strength. Whether it be an item, a place, or a person, just the thought, sight, or touch of them can center you and remind you of the immense strength you hold inside of you. Keep these touchstones close.
So many struggles come about from not feeling “normal,” accepted, and like “them”, but as the characters find out at some pivotal point along their journey, isn’t our individuality what makes us all interesting and original? We all celebrate with them at the end of the story as they stop hiding who they are and start using their uniqueness and individuality to help others and enjoy life to the fullest. We see them thriving, loving, happy, and connected. It gives us a sense of calm and contentedness so we can feel good letting that chapter close.
What if we didn’t have to wait until “the end” to realize that we have something special to offer the world and we will do it in our own time and with our own flare? It would not end all of our struggles, but it has the opportunity to make it a much more enjoyable journey.
Don’t ignore or be afraid of your individual signs of struggle. Instead, choose to stare them in the face and …
- Connect with your support system, they are the rocks we need to learn to lean on during difficult journeys and someday, they may need our help too.
- Don’t be ashamed to seek help when you need it. It’s not always easy to ask for help, so actively seeking it is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Be mindful of any self-medication (alcohol, drugs, excessive or lack of eating, excessive exercising, risky behaviors, gambling, excessive spending, etc.)
- Remember that you can’t pour from an empty glass. As much as we may feel drawn to helping others, we need to care for ourselves first so we are rejuvenated enough to care for others responsibly. Find your self care outlet(s) and stick to them!
- Know that you are the only one who can make the changes necessary to become the best version of you. Don’t let this fact be a burden but rather a badge of strength as you slowly gain control of your actions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Seek supports who will help you wear your badge proudly!
Kiri Meyer MS, LPC, NCC
In 1997, a longitudinal study was initiated to determine the impact of the arts on the lives of the participants. In this study, more than 25,000 students were evaluated over a course of ten years through high school. Those students with consistent participation in theatre arts consistently showed improved academic performance and significant increases in standardized test scores. In a 2013 article in the Washington Post by Lisa Phillips, the top skills children learn from the arts was discussed. They included the following:
Creativity – lean to approach tasks from different perspectives and to “think outside the box”
Confidence – build the confidence to perform in front of large audiences
Problem Solving – develop skills in reasoning and understanding
Perseverance – learning skills and techniques through practice; developing new skills
Focus – maintaining a balance between listening and contributing; improve concentration
Collaboration – practice working together for a common goal
Dedication – associate hard work and dedication with a sense of accomplishment
Accountability – learn that their actions affect other people; Gain a sense of responsibility
Receiving Constructive Feedback – learn that critique is a valuable experience and contributes to the success of the final piece
An arts educator with over 16 years’ experience, Lisa’s comments were driven by a concern over an obsession with science, math, technology and engineering in our school systems at the risk of losing art education and the skills that come from it. I think she makes a valid point. Our community theaters are more than just an entertainment venue; they offer a tremendous benefit for personal growth. Perhaps you know of someone who has or may benefit from active participation in the theatre. Reach out and get involved!
Community Partners Coordinator