…think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
-William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Okay, sorry. Had to get that out of the way. It wouldn’t be a blog about me and theatre without at least one Midsummer Night’s Dream Quote, and Puck’s epilogue was one of the first things I had to memorize when I started in my high school theatre magnet so needless to say that thing is drilled into my head. It felt like an appropriate start, ironic as a prologue, but appropriate regardless.
Everybody on the IDEASOn team has a history with live performance in some respect. I mean, of course we do, why else would we have chosen this topic? The topic is “Lessons from Live Performance.” There are just so many ways to tackle that, because I’ve learned so many things, some oddly specific and some general and important. I mean, do I focus in on one big thing or just make a huge list of weird stuff I’ve done? (Spoilers: I kind of did both.) I’m the youngest of us, so I probably have the least experience, definitely the least professional experience, but regardless I’ve been a theatre kid for pretty much as long as I can remember. The middle/elementary school I went to branded itself as an arts school, as well as the regular classes we had painting, music, dance, and drama. We put on various shows every year, including a Shakespeare play, my favorite. I think that the first “real play” I was in was A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 4th grade. That was the year you got to start being in the Shakespeares, and I played one of Titania’s little unnamed fairy attendants. We danced and sung and wore cute outfits, but I was probably around 9 so I don’t know how much of the plot I really got (This play follows me, it’s actually ridiculous. After fourth grade, I was Bottom in 8th and then Peaseblossom, a more important fairy, in high school.) I fell in love with acting through performing in the Shakespeare shows, youth theatre outside of school, and even a little professional opera(children’s chorus in La Boheme and Carmen, I still remember parts of the songs.) It’s cliché, but I was a kid who didn’t fit in at school and suddenly theatre gave me a place to fit in with a bunch of equally strange people.
My whole high school experience was defined by the Doctor Phillips High School Theatre Magnet. Listen, people can be quick to dismiss high school theatre, and I get that, but this magnet was…intense. You got in by audition and honestly our shows were good. One of the big things with the magnet was that whether we wanted to go to college for acting or makeup design or lighting or whatever we all had to learn at least a little bit about all aspects of the theatre. I performed, I did publicity, I wrote plays, I ran props crew (So. Much. Props. Crew.) I learned a super random assortment of things, because as well as basics like projecting and how to work a saw you have to learn whatever you need when it happens. You never really know what problem is going to pop up that needs solving. Sometimes it rains and you’ve gotta relocate the amphitheater show right before it starts. Florida, right? I learned how to deal with live chickens and minor burns, how to decorate cakes, and how to tie a tie. I learned and mostly forgot how to do Irish dancing and a handful of accents, I learned all of the words to most of the musicals we performed, I learned how to dance in stiletto heels and not look like a wobbly giraffe baby (or fall on my face), I learned that if you do fall in the middle of a show just commit to it (this applies to everyday life as well…very often.) I learned what to do if someone says Macbeth in the theatre, I learned to knit and to make balloon animals, I learned to do pin curls and the right way to put on a wig, I learned that if the prop knife is going to go missing it’s definitely going to go missing a few hours before the show, I learned to make birds and function without sleep, I learned to shriek without destroying my voice, how to get through a musical with a terrible sore throat, and that many actors do not deserve the privilege of having props.
These days I’m a theatre minor at CU Boulder, and I’ve transferred lots of the skills I picked up into my cosplay and creative work, though I think the things I’ve learned in live theatre manifest in my every day life. Life is performative, I’m glad I know how to embody a role. We’re always playing a character version of our selves. I don’t think that makes it less genuine, it’s just that some people get to see the version of me that is closest to the “real” me, and some see Work Olivia or Zoom Class Olivia or Weird Lady Walking Down The Street Talking Super Loud and Embarrassing Her Friends Olivia.
Maybe the biggest things I learned from live theatre are how to solve problems on the fly, and the importance ensemble and teamwork, because without a functioning team the show doesn’t run, and that stands for any collaborative area of my life.