Welcome to our first Guest Post! Connie Voight is a theatre teacher in Huntsville, AL and also the Chapter Director of Alabama Thespians. This summer she dove back into acting for the first time in thirteen years. She shares her experience and the importance of being on the stage when you’re a theatre teacher. Take it away Connie!
My experience playing Miss Hannigan in Lyrique Music Production’s Annie this summer has prompted me to write my first blog ever! My experience was so wonderful on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin.
When I auditioned for the show back in May I didn’t think much beyond, ‘Boy, it would be fun to play Miss Hannigan!,’ or ‘Yes, I would sacrifice alot of my summer to play that role.’ and ‘My students need to see me on stage! They need to know that I can do what I’m always asking them to do!’ That sounds so simple-minded now!
What I should have been thinking was, ‘Gee, it’s been thirteen years since I’ve been in a play or musical, maybe it’ll be harder than it used to be.’ ‘Harder than it used to be’ turned out to be an understatement! Lines that once saturated my head after only a few rehearsals remained elusive and twisted. Dancing that should have been simple was suddenly much more complicated and harder to memorize. At the outset, I had no doubt that I could do it. Half-way through the process, I began to have serious doubts.
So, what did I learn this summer? First, I learned that I can still do it. It might be harder than it used to be, but I can still get it done, I can still make people laugh (isn’t that what it’s all about?), and yes, I can still get applause.
More important than that, though, I was reminded of how my students feel at every audition, every rehearsal, every choreography and music session, and every opening night. It’s not easy for me anymore because I’m getting older and most things aren’t as easy anymore. It’s not easy for my students because they’re worried about the AP History exam they have the next morning, the homework they can’t get to because they’re onstage, the choir concert next week or the fight they had with their mom on the way out the door that morning. It’s not easy because most of them, no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise, are worried about what other people think and are worried that (for some bizarre reason) you’re going to make them look silly. They are just learning to trust and that lesson was driven home to me this summer when I had to trust my directors.
Now don’t worry that I’m going to go all soft on them! If that were to happen, they would cease to have the intense and rewarding educational experience I hope I’m providing. In some ways, my own experience will make me tougher; we’ll try to get right to work and not waste time so that math homework can get done before midnight. I’ll be extra stringent on getting lines memorized earlier than ever; you can’t create amazing characters when you have a script in your hand or are struggling to remember lines. I’m likely to be less tolerant of absences; a play is even more structured than a team. We have no second string; if our ‘quarterback’ is gone, there’s no one to move the ball! A rehearsal can come to a quick standstill when key players are missing. I’ll make an extra effort to take more positive notes; I know I have a tendency to overlook the things that are going well and concentrate on those things that need to be fixed. While this method gets things done, it leaves those students doing great jobs feeling empty and questioning their talents.
I learned a lot this summer and had an amazingly fun and rewarding experience. I know my experience is going to make me a better teacher and director. Will I again wait thirteen years to audition for a show? I’ll try my best not to let that happen. If I’m going to practice what I preach, I’ve got to make the practicing a priority. The best part is knowing that even while I’m learning and reinforcing my methods, I’m going to have a ton of fun and make a lot of new friends in the process!