The Value of Theatre: The Big Why?

Sean Grafton's picture
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A special blog post from our KWLT community! Over the next few months, we will hear from various community members on a wide range of theatre-related topics. KWLT looks forward to providing this forum for theatre patrons, volunteers and fans to tell us about their experiences, love of community theatre, and perhaps some useful advice for those aspiring to get more involved.

Sean is a twenty two year old student, musician and aspiring game designer. Sean has been involved in community theatre in both Brantford and KW for the past eight years, volunteering mostly as an actor, with some experience in directing, stage managing, and technical direction. Sean specializes in musical theatre, and has been a member of KWLT since 2014.

Ever since I first started theatre in high school, both the outside world and, indeed my own mind at times, had but one question to ask - why?

I’ve always been an extremely academically oriented student. I excelled at the sciences and mathematics and technology. My career aspirations in game design had little to do with acting, and the amount of time theatre demanded of me could be used for a dozen other activities. So, why? Why would a nerdy, loner kid want to stand up in front of hundreds of people and do something as potentially embarrassing as acting? What use was there in learning Shakespeare for a kid who wanted to sit in front of a desk and program for a career? In short, what was the value of theatre that was worth the amount of work put into it?

The answer you will get from any individual theatre volunteer will change from person to person. I hope that with this column I will be able to ask others in the community about their experiences. As for myself, the reasons have changed over the years.

Initially theatre was a method for me to become more socially involved in my community. My younger years saw me as both bullied and bully, and when I first went to high school, I took a look at what my life had become. I sat alone in the cafeteria, I rarely spoke to anyone, and I was an angry and sad kid. This was a kid I didn’t like, and didn’t want to be. I wanted to be rid of my past, and to find something that I could enjoy again. There were but two kinds of extra curriculars at my school: the sports teams and the arts. I was never an athletic kid, and besides, many of those who were getting involved in sports were the people I had spent the past years either being tormented by or avoiding altogether. Instead, I turned to the performing arts.

While band was certainly a thing I enjoyed and excelled at, it was theatre that truly found its way into my heart. Drama classes had a way of baring the soul that was completely foreign to a kid who had spent the past years in fear and pain. There was an atmosphere where I just knew that I was safe, that nothing of the past mattered, and that I could start anew. My classmates were friendly, unique, empathetic, and in many ways came from the same position I was in - feeling alone or afraid in a new world, and looking for a place to take root.

I spent the next five years of my time at that school doing everything theatre had to offer me. It was a rare time indeed when I was not staying behind after school for hours of rehearsal. That little stage that was but a sliding wall away from the cafeteria became a second home for me. And when people ask me what the value of theatre is, I can say it helped me develop public speaking skills, that it taught me coordination and teamwork, or how I learned how best to deal with last minute stress. I could list dozens of skill sets that I use every day in the real world that I picked up from theatre. But I think the most important thing I was given was this:

I developed friendships in theatre that I think will last a lifetime. I learned I was more than what had happened to me in the past, and that I could, with a little hard work, do just about anything I set my mind to. I went from quietly eating alone to being the most rambunctious table in the cafeteria with my friends. Theatre helped me find validation of self in one of my darkest times, and while there are many other ways in which theatre has helped me become a better person, I truly think that this part of it saved my life.

I want to ask you: why do you do theatre? Email me and look for new answers from your community members.