I’ll never forget my first live theater experience.
My aunt took me to see Showboat at the local high school. As I sat in the audience I was completely drawn in by the sounds of the orchestra tuning. I felt the excitement of the parents and friends as they were ushered to their seats and I was entirely a part of the story as the dancers, actors, and singers performed.
There was more that I didn’t see. I didn’t see the people who designed and constructed the set , costumes, light, sound. I didn’t see the people who moved the set and props to make sure each scene was staged perfectly.
That’s true of so many of us. Do you believe you have to choose between either being on the stage or behind the scenes?
I’d like to encourage you to do both. What can you learn by working in some other capacity of the theater?
1) You get to watch as the actors work. You can learn from the experience others are gaining. Also experiencing the show from off stage sometimes gives clarifying moments of the element of storytelling that you might miss when you are focused on your own acting on stage.
2) You learn about all the jobs and responsibilities of the production crew. Work on the sound or light crew and you will understand why it is important to take mic checks seriously. Or work a long tech rehearsal and you will see why it is so important to be quiet when asked or be serious to get the job done.
3) You learn to respect others. You learn why it is important not to touch other props or to put yours back where it belongs. You learn that it is important to respect the people who do so much for you backstage. Maybe it will remind you to say thank you to each of them.
4) You will make new connections. Collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of theater. Making new connections is a benefit.
5) You might learn new skills. Not everyone comes into theater knowing how to sew or work tech, but be involved with these super talented people might give you the chance to learn and who knows maybe you will end up using that new skill in your life. Your focus might be acting, but there is creativity to learn from everywhere.
6) You get to see the show from a different perspective. When you see the show night after night you hear when people say a line a different way. I actually have people that don’t get certain jokes at first, but after hearing something over and over they begin to understand the humor! You see how the other elements (such as lighting) either aids the story or distracts from it.
Recently, I asked several of Overshadowed’s favorite actors/volunteers to share their experiences from a backstage perspective.
If you haven’t spent any time working in an area behind the scenes I hope you will find a place to help out. Here are just a few of the skills I think you will gain:
1) Concentration 2) Organizational skills 3) Confidence 4) Problem solving
The benefit? All of those skills help you ON-STAGE as well.
What are your favorite parts of theater? I’d love to hear from you!
As always, a special shout out to Brianna Valentine, Rebecca Leland and Yohannan Lee for their wisdom, talent and time spent to make this video!
Until next time-this is just me-talking to you-from the wings.
I am honored to have guest blogger, actress, teacher, mom, wife and friend join us this week. From the moment I met Jessica I was astonished by her spirit, wisdom, talent and enthusiasm. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your thoughts this week!
When I was asked to be a guest blogger for Reba, I had two questions: Number One: What do I write about? Number Two: Why would anyone care?
I get why Reba has a blog and people want to read it; she is President and Artistic Director for a theatre company that she founded! She started something from the ground up and took a huge risk. How cool is that!? If people need to learn from someone it is Reba.
So, what do I do? I teach high school, direct theatre, am a mom, and perform on the side for my personal sanity. But then I began thinking, I really do not just perform on the side. Over this past year I have taken a step to become more active offstage, which is in turn helping me better onstage.
The answer to the first question then came to me: What do I write about?
Where God calls, God equips. I am not going to take personal credit for this statement, as it was in my sermon notes from last month. However, it rings true with my connection with Overshadowed Theatrical Productions.
Over three years ago I performed with Overshadowed for the first time in the musical Mary Poppins. Before that I had been performing in musicals for years upon years with other local theatre companies. I did notice that Overshadowed was different. The people were a community, all people. I saw that the crew worked like a well-oiled machine. I was impressed by the professionalism of the company, but I was just a performer, so I did my job, finished the run, and continued working with other companies.
I did not get involved with Overshadowed until the spring season of last year. Involved meaning I jumped into serving. Last spring season, during the production of Seussical, I was asked to join the Gala Committee and I said I would help wherever I was needed. Silly me…of course that was the silent auction. (Who wants to ask people for donations?)
Fast-forward to late July and my afternoon date with Breana Akerberg. She showed me the ropes on how to ask for donations. (If you do not know already, Breana is a Rockstar at accomplishing goals!) At first, I was timid to walk into a business and do “the ask”. But with Breana’s help by the end of the afternoon we had great success (and ended our gala work with a mini smoothie date). That afternoon I gained the confidence I needed and a new friend.
You will never get anywhere if you do not ask (although it is not always comfortable at first). In the end, it was work, but rewarding work. I knew I was serving an important cause. And honestly, seeing the gala’s silent auction room last October I felt so proud that I had played a part in that (especially when I found out the amount raised for Overshadowed!). Laura Benanti said in a podcast interview on the Theater People that theatre “bonds you quickly” because together you are “working towards the same goal”. I think this is true onstage, but also true offstage and in life.
When we work together it bonds us, especially when we can enjoy the fruits of our labor with others.
During the course of a year, I began to take on more tasks for Overshadowed from seam ripping (not a costumer), assisting with makeup, writing news sources to market shows, and eventually overseeing Overshadowed’s social media. I am also now heading up the silent auction subcommittee if anyone wants to make a donation. (See what I did there?) However, I am taking initiative and asking if I can assist where I see a need. People are not always going ask, because much like my adventure with Breana, I was nervous to ask. People are afraid to burden others. So, if you see a need that you can fill, put out an offer.
Where am I going with this? I am a performer. I could just be an actress. I don’t have to volunteer in other capacities. But Overshadowed is theatre with a difference. I serve Overshadowed, because I am called. I am equipped. I am needed. Serving for Overshadowed makes me better and it makes Overshadowed better.
This past Christmas I had the absolute honor to perform in Overshadowed’s winter production of Holiday Inn. By that time, I had immersed myself in the culture and community of Overshadowed. Performing each night was more than just singing, dancing, and acting in a show like it had three years ago in Mary Poppins. I was now bonded to not only the cast, but the crew, and all of the volunteers. When we finished each performance the greatest compliment, I heard from the audience was that there was not a single weak link, even down to the scene changes, lighting, and sounds cues. Holiday Inn was a well-oiled machine, because everyone had invested their time and served during that production. Even more amazing, almost every member of the production has now volunteered their time offstage in the two productions following Holiday Inn by running sound cues, assisting in hair and makeup, as running crew backstage, painting and building sets, or ushering.
Now, to answer the second question: Why would anyone care?
Overshadowed is more than a theatre company; it is a ministry. Overshadowed needs volunteers. But best of all, when we volunteer, we work together on a common goal bonding people together.
If you are called but are unsure where to start, reach out, because there is always something small (remember I first started ripping seams?) and God will equip you along the journey. As you grow in your service you will see Overshadowed grow in strength, the community grow in faith, the audience grow in spirit, and your heart will be full.
Since truly getting involved with Overshadowed Theatrical Productions I have continued to perform, but the experience is vastly different than my first time on the Overshadowed stage. I am a part of the well-oiled machine that I observed during Mary Poppins. In January when I announced on Facebook that I was working on a new project, The Trip to Bountiful, a fellow Chicagoland actor commented on my post saying, “It looks like you found your theatre home”. I laughed and showed Reba. She smiled at me and said, “Yep, it is!” Overshadowed has become a home for me, because I have allowed myself to listen to the call of service and the fruits of my labor are even more rewarding.
If you are called to serve, be it a school, church, community service, or a ministry, I pray that you answer the call and take the initiative to fill the need.
The work will reap rewards.
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts or comments. Please take a moment to follow us so you don’t ever miss a post!