saw my first live theater show when I was in 4th grade. I had been in a classroom play in 3rd grade, where we moved the Teacher's desk to the side of the room, all the parents sat uncomfortably in our tiny desk/chair combos, and we did a Christmas presentation - I played Santa Claus. But this thing in 4th, that was different.
Lights. Sound. Music. Real costumes.
It was a field trip to the local public high school's production of Fiddler on the Roof. In 1978, this was still considered a recent show. It was compelling, deep down. The idea that you could create an entire alternate world, and present it before an audience's eyes in real time was staggering. No editing, no camera trickery. It felt very intimate and real, even though it was manifestly a simulation.
I was hooked.
But life moved on. Schoolwork. Piano lessons. Hobbies. (Remember hobbies? Those were those interests we had that we actually had time to pursue outside of our other work. Those were the days...)
The hobbies I chose were interesting, though. Film music. Magic. Fiction writing. Composing music. Folklore. At one point I wanted to be a stunt man. There was an obvious pattern here, but it didn't become clear until High School. In the meantime, I bounced from interest to interest, searching for some kind of meta-interest or umbrella that would encompass all my varied passions.
The life lessons learned continue to reverberate
That was when I got into theatrical production myself. And discovered that all my interests could happily coexist under the Proscenium Arch.
Theater had it all. Throw in the camaraderie of shared suffering, exhilaration, and exhaustion, and Theater became the perfect storm for me.
I did twenty solid years of theatrical productions, as music director, pit musician, composer, playwright, stagehand. Everything but acting on stage (nope, not me...) -- and the life lessons learned continue to reverberate within me.
And that's a good part of why theater still matters today. It's not just one of humankind's oldest forms of expression. It's not just a sacred place for creatives to thrive.
Participation in live performance teaches all the same skills that sports do, but hopefully with fewer injuries. Discipline. Focus. Drive. Persistence. Collaboration toward a shared goal.
But to these, add self-expression. Artistic and aesthetic development. Cross-training in many disciplines.
It's good stuff.