Reprise: A Return to Theatre

| May 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

I couldn’t be more thankful to be out of high school forever; the only redeemable part of my four-year experience was the theatre program. Recently, I took a trip back down memory lane by watching this year’s spring musical. Half of the cast members were too young for me to know, and those I knew as freshmen were now seniors and juniors, some of whom were performing for the last time before graduating. I’ve never felt more ancient: I went to visit the cast after the end of show and was met with blank, unrecognizing stares from the younger students who had never even heard my name.

photo credit: daniel_dimarco theweddingsinger_575_filtered via photopin (license)

photo credit: daniel_dimarco theweddingsinger_575_filtered via photopin (license)

I did seven shows during high school, both plays and musicals, and to this day I have lasting friendships and bonds with people both older and younger than me. In particular, our school has a tradition of senior speeches: on the last night of each show, every senior would get a heartfelt speech from an underclassmen friend that celebrated their time in the program and the memories they made. I got my speeches from two underclassmen, Nikki and Brett, both of whom are two years younger than me.

This spring, I got to see them both perform their senior show, having matured both as performers and as people in the time I’ve been gone. I felt like a proud parent, cheering on my kids from the audience. Despite our small age difference, my senior friends and I had taken younger students under our wing, teaching them the theatre traditions and helping them through school. Now, returning after two years, I could see they no longer needed the guidance and friendship I had provided: they had grown up, moved on, and taken on younger students of their own as apprentices.

It feels strange, knowing that you’re no longer needed in their lives. It’s a watered-down version of parenthood, like watching your own kids go to college and leave you behind. I couldn’t be prouder of what my underclassmen have accomplished, and what they will accomplish at college in the fall, but it’s bittersweet to know that it’s over. I haven’t felt the pain of leaving since I finished graduation and walked out of the high school without so much as looking behind me, because I thought I was done forever with that part of my life. It turns out life has a way of holding on to you, even when you thought you were able to finally let go.

As a form of repayment for my senior speeches, I wrote a letter to each of my younger friends on the last night of my senior show two years ago. (Every single one of them cried when reading it, which I was secretly quite happy about.) Nikki still has hers, in the original envelope in which I gave it to her. My “life lessons” weren’t so much advice as reassurance that they don’t have to have their lives figured out now that they’re technically adults–God knows I sure didn’t at the time. I hope that as they leave that stage of their lives, they pass their own lessons down to the next generation of theatre geeks, and keep alive the cycle of support and love I sought solace in years ago.

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featured photo credit: Len Radin The Diviners via photopin (license)

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Category: Art and Literature, featured, Poetry, Prose and Comedy, Reflections

Charlie Scanlan

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Charlie is a journalism major in the College of Communication.

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