Last week at an event, Karen LaShelle, Theatre Action Project’s Executive Director, and I were chatting with the mother of a high school student considering college choices. The mother’s son was interested in a theater program. We began discussing the strengths and characteristics of “theater people.” As an English major with no formal training or practical experience in theater working with scads of people steeped in that world, I have found that the defining attributes of my theater-trained colleagues are somewhat different than I’d have expected.
Among my co-workers, you will definitely find resonant voices capable of projection to the back of a performance venue and yes … you would recognize a penchant for costume and a love of having an audience, but I have come to think differently about how the theater arts comes to define people and their skill sets.
The real mark of “theater people” is an effortlessly creative resourcefulness.
Space and budget constraints are often as demanding as artistic concerns. The result is often real ingenuity. The open under-carriage of a giant alligator puppet in my office reveals a flexible skeleton made of interlocking pieces of foam core that are a feat of engineering. Theater experience is tantamount to chicken wire genius, apparently. I’ve seen Dustin Wills freestyle chicken wire into the form of giant forks and spoons that are transformed by papier mache and glossy paint into beautiful utensils.
On any given approach to our office, you might come upon a scene like this one…Karen and Dustin freehand sculpting a bull head for a production of Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf.
So the next time you come across a big voice or outsize personality, before you use the term “theatrical” to describe the bearer, take the person’s problem-solving, idea-engineering and resourcefulness into consideration!