How Theatre Changed My Life

or Why we created the Wright Theatre School by S.C.Wright
I was bitten by the Theatre bug in my grade 9 year in Canada, but let me start a bit before that.

I was adopted, we moved around a lot, I was smarter than most of the other kids and not as athletic – I also had all sorts of allergies and ended up having to get booster shots twice a week for years. Suffice it to say I didn’t have a lot of friends, and those I did make, I lost whenever my family moved. Not that family life was all that great either, my parents had their own problems, of course, which lead to us moving over and over again.

Related Article: What Drama Education Can Teach Your Child

We settled down when I was 11, though the public school I attended was far from ideal.  The kids in my class were so bad the teacher had 3 nervous breakdowns that year, eventually no substitute in the city would teach us, and our year was finished out by the principal of the school.  Every privilege a class could have, including library time, was taken away from us.

I look back now and I see a lot of broken kids with no real role models, and no outlets for their anger except to take it out on the smart kid.  I could always take their hits physically, it was the emotional pain that hurt – why was I so unworthy of their friendship? What did I do that made them hate me so much?

Grade Nine was the start of high school and I decided I needed to get as far away from those kids as I could.  I chose to attend a school in another district and had to bus it there every day, but would at least be rid of those jerks. Little did I know how much that decision would change me.

Related Article: Top 5 Reasons Kids should do Theatre

The school was home to a brand new program: the Windsor Centre for the Creative Arts. Students would be able to take classes in many disciplines, with experienced teachers.  I hadn’t been aware of it when I decided to attend Walkerville, but it sure made an impact once I was there.

One of the things my father taught me was how to use tools.  We tore the plaster off the walls of the house, and put up drywall.  We planned and built a garage in the backyard.  So when my music teacher asked if I was interested in helping out with stage construction for the upcoming musical I felt involved, useful.  We built faux log cabins, a wild west bar and even a Stagecoach! I was having so much fun that I didn’t blink when asked if I wanted to be on the Stage Crew, I was in with both feet.

It was during a tech rehearsal – a Cue to Cue – that one of the actors announced his family was moving and he wouldn’t be able to continue.  We shifted another actor into his role, but that left a couple small parts empty, and the next thing I knew, there I was on stage, singing, dancing and wearing leather riding chaps! Hearing the roar of the crowd was like flying, there was an exhilarating boost that had me floating for days.

Of course with a sense of purpose and belonging, I flourished. It was time to reinvent, and so I did. 

I joined every arts class I could – I was hungry for the arts.  Drawing, Printmaking, Sculpture, Film and Video, etc, but it was Drama class that really piqued my curiosity.  By exploring human behaviour through scripts and Drama exercises, I began my journey of understanding the human condition. Through Drama, I could see things that others couldn’t yet know – how my bullies were really victims themselves, how everyone was just figuring life out as they went along, and how we are all connected in this experience we call life.  It was a timely set of lessons that probably saved my life.

Related Article: UCLA Study Offers New Evidence Linking the Arts and School Achievement

It was just after that first musical that I ended up leaving home.  My father and I had never had a great relationship and things changed rapidly when I could hold my own in conversations with him.  I can see now how his depression affected us all, but at the time, leaving seemed the smartest option.  Luckily I had made great friends whose Parents would shelter and feed me, all the while joking about how I was an orphan boy who lived in a cardboard box by the train tracks.  I was 15.

That hunger for the arts, for understanding and belonging, kept me in High School.  The confidence and empathy I gained changed who I was, and paved the way for me to be the person I am today.  Theatre training made an enormous difference to my life, and I want to be able to pay that forward.

That is why we created the Wright Theatre School.

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