The path that led me to be an actor and performer is quite the interesting one.
When I was a young child, I was extremely shy. I kept to myself a lot. I didn’t have many friends on the playground, and usually spent most recesses alone by myself. I recall some other children calling me a snob. I remember those remarks hurt me deeply — I knew I did not keep to myself out of snobbery. I kept to myself because I was so incredibly shy. Deep down I really wanted to connect with others and to have friends, but my shyness kept me from doing so.
This feeling of shyness never really went away, and it wasn’t something I outgrew in the following years to come. Perhaps the intensity of my shyness lessened, yet it was still there.
Despite my shy tendencies, once I was in high school I immersed myself in a variety of high school classes that are typically associated with extroverted behavior. I was a member of student council (and later became an executive member of student council too). I joined the choir. I sang in the vocal jazz ensemble. I performed percussive instruments in the jazz band. I was also a member of the concert band. It would seem I loved music and performing. We didn’t have a drama class, but there was a musical theatre class. Musical theatre class did not focus on performance in terms of acting skills, but rather focused on singing and chorus choreography.
I recall being in the 9th grade and watching a performance of the The Sound of Music that my high school had put on. It wasn’t an especially fantastical or glamorous production, and yet, it somehow inspired me to perform and to be up on that stage. There was something inside of me that longed to be on stage, act, and sing, even though my shy and introverted nature preferred to stay quiet and out of the limelight.
The following year, in the 10th grade, I decided to audition for that year’s musical. It was my first time trying out for anything. I was pleased to be cast in the role of Amaryllis in that year’s production of The Music Man!
When in the 12th grade, I remember auditioning for that year’s musical, which was to be The King and I. I was soooooo nervous. Because it was my last year of high school, I put a lot of pressure on myself and the importance of that audition. As a result of intense nerves, stress, and high expectations I put on myself, I gave a poor audition.
I was so upset with myself. I saw this as my last opportunity to be cast in a lead role, and I knew I was capable of doing a great job — if only my nerves hadn’t gotten in the way. But, they had. As a result, I was cast in the chorus of the King’s children. As someone who was a few months away from adulthood at the time, I was so disappointed to be cast as an unimportant chorus child.
Determined to play an important role in the musical of my final year of high school, I talked with the director. I decided to voluntarily pull out of the musical as a chorus member and to instead play the role of stage manager. I wanted to contribute in a more meaningful and significant way, and if I couldn’t play one of the lead roles on stage, I thought the next best thing would be to play a lead role off-stage. The director agreed to this arrangement.
After many weeks of rehearsals and preparation, it was soon time for the show to be presented on stage for an audience. I took pride in playing the role of the stage manager, yet simultaneously longed to be on stage. When the cast was on stage singing, I was singing too from off-stage. It seemed that’s where my heart longed to be.
Then, the final night of performance arrived. The play started, progressed, and finished. That was it. It was over. I felt as though I would likely never have an experience like this in my life. I was at once elated for what I had experienced and devastated that I would never experience anything like this again.
It was tradition for the cast to recognize the director, stage manager, and other off-stage crew on the final show, in front of the audience. I was presented with flowers, a card, and a gift. I couldn’t help bawling my face off, because inside I felt like this was the last time I would ever get to be part of such a committed team all working towards the same goal of creating an ephemeral experience to share with an audience – and to share with each other. I honestly felt like I would never have this again. Saying goodbye to that was very difficult.
Interestingly, I had never considered going into theatre as a career. Obviously I seemed to have some sort of drive or passion for performing on stage, even though I was still terribly nervous and shy about it. But to do so as a career? It just didn’t seem… practical. It didn’t even cross my mind.
Actually, I didn’t know what the heck I wanted to “be”.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a future career. I had some of the very top grades in my graduating class in Chemistry, Physics, Math, English, and Music. I had earned some prestigious awards. I had earned two entrance scholarships to two different local universities. I seemed to have interest and be skilled in a variety of topics. How the heck was I supposed to choose only one path to pursue?
Uncertain and indecisive, I decided to take a variety of classes and subjects. During my first year of university, I took classes such as: a philosophy course called, “Thinking about Moral Issues”, an Introduction to Astronomy, an Introduction to Calculus, an Introduction to World Religions, as well as an Introduction to Theatre.
The theatre class I had signed up for was actually not an acting or performance class. It was geared more towards those who were interested in the non-performance aspect of theatre, such as the role of a director or designer, or perhaps even a stage manager or theatre technician.
Out of all the classes I had taken that year, I had seemed to be most drawn to theatre. (Astronomy was pretty high up there too, though.) Perhaps it was because theatre had a creative element to it in addition to an expressive element. The other classes seemed mostly focused on the memorization and regurgitation of the subject material.
Theatre had a different component to it. Perhaps it was its creative aspect. Perhaps it was the way one could use the medium of theatre as a means of expression. Or perhaps it was theatre’s ephemeral and intangible qualities that I found to be so alluring. Either way, I became hooked. I soon declared Theatre and Drama as my subject of major.
I’m really grateful for the role theatre has played in my life. Theatre and performance has allowed me to delve deeper into myself, discover that which lay within, and share it with others — performers and audience members alike. I still have shy tendencies from time to time, but on a whole, I’m much more open and comfortable with myself than ever before. And it’s a continual process too.
Theatre acted as a means for me to break out of that shell of shyness that segregated me from the world and the world from me. I suppose that’s what I’ve always wanted, longed for, and desired all along: to share myself with the world, and by doing so, to make a true, meaningful, and impactful difference.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t the specific act of performing that is my true desire. Rather, it’s the act of sharing myself — openly, honestly, creatively, artistically — all in the interest and hope of, somehow, making the world a better place.