On Theatre, or: The Importance of Performance

The above is a photo taken midway through the staging process of a play in which I was recently involved, titled These Last Four Years. Our run at Mount Allison’s Motyer-Fancy Theatre came to an end last night, concluding two months of collaboration, connection, and creativity.

TLFY Cast Photo
The cast. Top row, L to R: me, Max, Maya, Ella, Kelsey. Bottom row, L to R: Kennedy, Gillian. Not pictured: Kaye.

The end of a production is always a strange thing. I feel immense relief for having completed our three performances with no major mistakes or problems. I’m also excited to have more free time, which will be incredibly helpful with the end of the semester approaching rapidly. I’m so proud of the achievements of our cast and crew.

There’s also a sense of loss — or perhaps “departure” is a more accurate word to use. After putting so much effort into this production, it’s time for us to walk away. We have accomplished what we set out to do.

In a way, it’s the same feeling that I get at the end of any major project, particularly creative work. When you spend significant amounts of time working toward a goal, it becomes part of your identity, however temporary it may be. The goal becomes an aspect of how you see yourself in that moment or stretch of time. Then, when the goal is complete and you take a step back, it feels like you’ve left that part of you behind.

I think this is doubly true for theatre, which by its nature is generally both collaborative and performative. Actors are tasked with sharing a part of themselves with others — both their fellow cast members and their audiences. This can be a surprisingly vulnerable state to be in, but there is strength in that vulnerability. I trust the people with whom I’ve shared a stage perhaps more than I trust anyone else, and that holds just as true for These Last Four Years as for the other plays I’ve been a part of. It even extends to the members of the improv team here at Mount Allison, of which I’ve been a member for four years now.

That’s a big part of what makes it so difficult when a production closes. It doesn’t just mean the end of a major project or the achievement of a goal; in both of those cases, you often just have to find a new project or goal to take the place of the old one. For theatre and other collaborative projects, however, it can also feel like stepping away from those connections established during the process.

That feeling takes on even more significance with graduation looming less than a month and a half away. I’ve felt so lucky to be able to participate in theatre in various forms during my time at Mount Allison, especially since I’m not actually studying drama. I can’t say for certain that I’ll have similar opportunities after I graduate. That uncertainty for the future makes me treasure the connections and collaboration of theatre all the more.

I firmly believe that acting is a highly enriching experience for any individual, and that it can yield substantial benefits for a person’s empathy, emotional awareness, confidence, and self-control. I certainly believe that I’ve felt these benefits in myself (and observed them in others) as I’ve spent more time on the stage. These aspects merit further discussion and exploration, and perhaps I’ll return to them in another post.

For now, though, I want to stay focused on those connections, those feelings of vulnerability, strength, and trust. To me, those were always the most valuable parts of theatre.

I want to close by expressing my most sincere gratitude and appreciation to anyone with whom I’ve ever worked on a production in my time at Mount Allison, and especially to those with whom I’ve had the privilege of sharing the stage. Whether we had a whole series of scenes or just two lines of dialogue, I’m so glad to have had that opportunity to build a connection, to trust each other. I may not know exactly what my theatrical future holds, but it means so much to me that I got to share my past and present with all of you.

Author: Mitchell

I'm 24 and currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Toronto.

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