Where it all started.
It's an interesting topic really because, I suppose, theatre began FAR before I was ever born. It began before I ever stood on a stage and before I was ever passed up for a part. But I think it’s easiest to start our beginnings with a class that I took in 1991.
I was not quite 21 and was taking a speech class in college for the first time. The teacher of this class was an immigrant from Japan, young, pretty, and with a Japanese accent so thick that you REALLY had to pay attention. She was also funny. I can’t remember a single topic of conversation all these years later, but I remember she made us laugh. To new, young adults a teacher who honestly makes you laugh is a God-send.
She got to know us. She gave us ice-breakers. She talked about logical arguments. Somewhere around the 3rd class, after we really loved her, she gave us an assignment to “teach” the class something. It could be anything, teach us how to build a car, teach us how to tie our shoes, or make a peanut butter sandwich. It was supposed to be a one-minute speech. That’s it, 60 seconds.
We were all so nervous. Before we spoke she gave us a pep talk.
Teacher: “You all go home and you talk about ME, right?”
Me: (thinking about my new boyfriend) <shaking my head>
Teacher: “Oh yes, you make fun of me around the table. You laugh at the way I say things, at my pronunciation.” (pronunciation was a hard word for her to say, so her accent came on really strong and we’d laughed about the way she said it before.)
Students: <all shaking our heads now> NO, we like it, we can totally understand you, we think it’s cute (and other encouraging things to say.)
Teacher: “I think you must talk about me all the time because I sound ridiculous."
Students: <louder now> No! No! (more encouraging things.)
Teacher: (She paused, waiting for us to stop, she may have even turned her back for dramatic effect.) Into the silence of our smiling faces she said, “That’s right because I’m not that important.”
She let that sit there for a minute.
The rest I can’t remember exactly, but at the heart of it she reminded us that what we say in this one-minute speech wasn’t going to rock anyone’s world, it’s one minute, it’s our first speech. We might mess it up BADLY. But the stigma of a poorly performed speech wasn’t going to last any longer than the bang of the door on our way out. And then she said, “YOU not that important!” And yes, I left that " ‘re " off on purpose.
It’s funny in this world of people trying to make sure everyone knows they are important that one of my biggest memories and the quote that I have always felt changed my life was of someone who told me that I was NOT that important.
She gave me the freedom to realize that the mistakes that I was going to make were not catastrophic, they weren’t going on my permanent record. That a one-minute speech, and then a 3-minute speech, and then a 10-minute speech, if I could just get out of my own way and GO FOR IT … could change my life. It could allow me to go on and teach hundreds of adult students in the next 10 years. It could allow me to own my own business at 29 years old. It could allow me to sing on stages in front of lots of people. It could allow me, almost 30 years later, to start a drama class for kids so that maybe I could help them understand what she helped me understand.
To do the things I was made to do, I couldn’t be so embarrassed to be bad that I was afraid to try. I couldn't let the fear of being TERRIBLE stop me. I am not that important.
I truly believe that we are all given talents and that we learn to turn these talents into gifts that serve our world. It takes about 2 minutes on any social media platform to realize that the culture of our children’s generation is perfection. I want to turn that on it’s head. I want my children to learn to be beginners in their talents. A confident beginner doesn’t give up because there is another person better, a confident beginner gets better every day, knowing that if they keep trying, they will be even better.
As gifts are learned and improved, each person also needs to be confident enough to express that gift. One of the things I love about theatre is that there are so many gifts beyond performance that can be perfected.
Let me leave you with these words from Zechariah 4:10..
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin...
Here’s to all of our beginners, that they learn that they aren’t THAT important so that they don't stop trying before they can become exactly who the Lord would make them.
<3 Ms. Stacey