Letter to the editor: Reminiscing SYT
When I first started Solano Youth Theatre, I was an angry 8th grader who had just decided to go to independent study. The previous year I had a brain surgery, and if that isn’t hard enough, I also had an affected gait that provoked a lot of questions, comments, and taunts from the kids at my school. This is the main reason why I decided to try independent study for my 8th grade year.
My mom always told me that, since I wasn’t in school, I had to be “in something” to make up for the social aspect I’d be losing. I am a little hazy on the details about how I chose SYT since it was so long ago, but I’d like to think it was the force of something bigger than myself that led me to it.
I still remember that first day of rehearsal when I walked in and expected the same reactions I had at school the year before. I braced myself for the stares and the “What’s wrong with your leg?” questions. What I found was something entirely different.
Instead of tactless teenagers getting too personal and unintentionally making me feel like a freak, I came across a community of young people who were curious about me and wanted to make sure I was okay. I had finally found a place where I was accepted and could make friends with ease, without being judged and ridiculed.
SYT became my sanctuary; a place where I could come and forget about the daily hardships of having a physical disability in junior high and high school. It was also a place where I could overcome my fears because I felt supported by everyone around me. One of my strongest memories of my time in SYT was my first show when I was getting ready to go onstage in front of a lot of people for the first time. I got myself so worked up and nervous that I did not end up making it on the stage. Instead, I chickened out and stayed behind while my cast members went on without me. I felt stupid, defeated, a little sick, and lightheaded. Then, my director at the time, Tia Madison, walked me outside, where I started sobbing and apologizing for being such a chicken. After my breakdown, I felt supported and determined to make it back on the stage, and the next time my group went out, I was right there with them.
The feeling of overcoming that initial fear was more satisfying than anything I’d ever felt in my life. From then on, I was addicted to the stage and I went on to perform in two musicals a year for five years, and I never looked back. Overcoming that fear by getting on that stage has showed me that I have the strength to overcome anything that scares me. I have SYT to thank for a lot of things. Giving me a stronger spirit is one of them.
The one thing I can remember always struggling with was the dance numbers. Since my left leg is weaker, it always took me a bit longer to catch on. But knowing that only made me want to work harder and brought out a strength and determination in me that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. Although I was never a lead dancer, I had always felt a great sense of accomplishment when I got to dance a number in front of everyone. I also have the choreographers that I worked with to thank for helping me through. Staci Arriaga was my favorite person to work with because she would scream at us until we got the steps right, and I loved every minute of it. She was also a great teacher and would take the time to work with me, or with anyone who needed more help, until we got it right.
Graduating from SYT was harder for me than graduating from high school. I remember trying to hold in my emotions through the last show and breaking down into sobs as soon as the curtain came down. At that moment, I was realizing all of the things I’d be losing by leaving SYT. My friend, Amanda Cowan, who was playing my husband in the show, hugged me until I stopped crying and could finally make it offstage and into the dressing room.
When I came back to Solano to attend classes, I joined The Tempest staff in my second semester. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to audition for any shows, but I did get to review many of them for the newspaper. For the first time, I got to be an audience member and see what wonderful shows SCT puts on. For almost every show, I could not say anything but nice things in my reviews because the shows were always so spectacular. The casts are talented, the sets and costumes are beautiful, and the direction of every show is stunning. SCT is the most professional community theatre company I have ever seen.
If this program is cut, students like me will be losing the chance to take advantage of the things theatre can teach them. The thought of no other students getting to take the journey that I took through theatre breaks my heart. Theatre has the power to change the lives of the viewer and the performer, to teach them something, and to foster relationships between people. If the theatre is torn down, an opportunity for people to do things they never thought were possible will be torn down with it.
Although it’s too late to save SYT, SCT still has a chance and deserves to be saved.