A few weeks ago, one of my students from last year asked me a question. He’s my A+ Tutor in a class that has both myself and a special educator, so sometimes there’s not a lot for him to do. I was sitting in the back, grading, while we were working quietly on something–a VERY rare occasion–and the student asked me a question that I sometimes ask myself when I’m having an existential crisis or just curious.
He asked me why I don’t teach theatre.
Here’s the thing about this question: it’s a good one. I’ve been a fan of musicals for a long time and this particular student is also heavily involved with music and is set to be in our school’s upcoming musical “Seussical.” He knows that I was asked to observe auditions last year, that I see shows several times a year, and has even said that I probably know more than most about musical theatre.
And maybe he’s right. But I also think that this question is something that happens to a lot of people. Growing up, teaching was it for me. I knew I loved to sing, but I wasn’t talented and it wasn’t really until later that my passion for musical theatre flamed to life. So English, my love of reading and writing and language, took over. And I love my job. I do.
But sometimes I wonder if being single-minded and focused on teaching English is the only thing I should have done. Sometimes I wonder if I could have chosen theatre.
If I think about it, I know nothing technically about music. I can’t sight-read notes, I can’t tell you the difference between vocal ranges specifically, but I have an idea. I don’t know how to direct or how to choreograph or anything like that.
I do know, however, how I feel as an audience member. The way that musicals make me feel. The authenticity of characters. The beauty of music. The beating heart of every show. And I think that’s why this student knows that I would succeed. And I also think that, deep down, the biggest reason why I don’t teach musical theatre is not because I “don’t know anything about it.” It’s also not because I didn’t study it, though that’s also a good one.
The reason I don’t teach theatre or become involved as anything more than a member of an audience is because I’m afraid.
It’s important, I think, to be open about our fears. To know all the best parts and worst parts of who we are. Too often people don’t take the time to get to know themselves and that’s something that I pride myself on. I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong. I’m willing to admit that I know myself, perhaps too well.
Twenty-five years of single-mindedness and singleness, if I’m being honest, can really do its work that way. It’s not that I don’t have other interests–obviously I do–but I knew what I wanted and I worked until I got it, often at the expense of other parts of my life. I don’t know how often people really do that anymore, but for me it felt right.
Just like musical theatre feels right now.
I’ll never stop teaching English, but I do think that one day, perhaps very soon, I’ll try to get that foot in the door. I love theatre too much to remain an audience member forever. And maybe there’s something you love too. Embrace it. Embrace it all.
Until next time…