The Theatre Arts and How It Can Shape Young People

scott-romano-blog-postBy Scott Romano

I have been involved in theatre and the arts so long that one of my oldest memories is losing my first tooth at a summer theatre camp, so let’s say four or five. Throughout my 18 years, I have seen how important the arts are, I have seen how they benefit me, my age group, and all students involved in these programs within public education. I have seen how paramount it is that we advocate for arts funding and fight to raise the priority level of arts in the mind of the public and our governments: from local school boards cutting arts programs, to the federal government nixing grant programs for arts endowment.

Individuals who lobby and support the arts, see that the fight for the arts is for the benefit of the public. We see arts education as a key element to being better, being more active members in our communities, and well-rounded people. We see the overwhelming benefits art programs bring to students and schools. We know individuals can work together to ensure policies and programs such as the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are guaranteed to children and families.

Through my active 13 years in the arts community, I can speak to these values, these lessons that the arts share with students. I am the thriving person I am today because of the arts. The arts have taught me about myself. They gave me a platform to be myself. Being gay, I know the arts community as a home, a place where I know it is okay to be me. I have thrived because I know that my community of artists shares the belief of acceptance.

Art opens our eyes to understanding. To accept and understand others. Together we have learned to acknowledge and accept people with different lifestyles, different cultures, social, and economic status. It is because of theatre I am able to understand where people come from. Storytelling has allowed me to empathize with other’s experiences. Being a storyteller has given me a new perspective on the world around me, a willingness to explore and convey and articulate what I experience as an individual.

Just the other day, I took one of my closest friends, Olivia, to go see the show, All the
Way at the Denver Center Theatre Company. She is not much of a theatre goer and so most of it was new to her. But the show expanded her view to the reality of the civil rights movement. She even said and I quote “It gave me a unique perspective into the political aspect of the civil rights movement I had never gotten the chance to see.” Inspirational at best.

The ideals that I have learned through the arts have made me a better person. I have seen how members of the community become better through the vigorous and relentless pushing of boundaries the arts subjects. Every time somebody struggles to find a connection to a character or scene during rehearsal; every time a friend stresses over a photo project, or another friend pushes herself to dance that one bit harder. Values like self-confidence, self-discipline, ambition, and passion, are shown through little acts, like this, every day. The arts are a cornerstone for development.

Because of my active involvement in the arts I have learned about not even just being myself, but being myself in front of an audience. My ability to get up and speak, or ask questions in class, do well in job interviews, present myself as who I am in a confident way, are key elements to thriving in professional and educational environments.

I remember being in my first show sophomore year. It was A Christmas Carol. I was young Scrooge, un-calloused, in love with Belle. I was nervous to be working with a large cast, to be kissing a girl in front of a large audience. And I was, and there is no better way to say this, freaking out. But it was theatre that took me out of my comfort zone. It pushed me to go out and perform, and, as ironic as it may seem being the, I was playing a character, I began to feel comfortable as myself. Playing and exploring another character gave me the tools to explore myself.

Working on shows and on certain opportunities I’ve been granted through the arts, especially while putting on events such as the State Thespian Conference which this year brought in almost 5,000 students from around the state of Colorado and the region, offering workshops to learn more about their craft, events to test their skills against hundreds of other actors and technicians. Through experiences like this I have learned the valuable lesson of natural consequences, such as holding myself accountable to my team to complete a common goal. I have learned that I need to be my own boss, I need to force myself to do better, to learn more.

Self-discipline is key. It improves anyone who is willing to toil with it. For me, ambition and self-discipline go hand and hand. Without self-discipline, ambition would never be accomplished, and without ambition there is no purpose for self-discipline.

Through theatre, my ambition has grown. I have “risen through the ranks” one might say. I started in the basic theatre classes, and now I am directing shows, and performing in them as well. Without ambition I never would have become my Thespian Troupe’s President, or become a State Thespian Officer.

But it is this last element that drives all of this: passion. That compelling beast.

Once I found my passion within theatre I wanted to dedicate time to rehearsals, to performances, to working with middle schools sharing the excitement of theatre and improv. I found my passion of making change through theatre, and, thanks to the arts, I learned that everyone has the power to make change.

The arts have a way of teaching these pillars: self-confidence, self-discipline, ambition, passion. And if you ask me, these are four pillars to becoming a better person. Of course there are other attributes, but I ask each of you to look at yourself and see if you can find your own pillars. I know that for myself these four pillars make me who I am.

I’ve found these educational pillars through arts in school, and I know many others have too. To build upon the lesson taught by the arts that frame the construction of moral compasses or ethical lines for students. I ask you to think of a moment. A moment where you used something taught to you through the arts. A moment that you can describe easily allows each of us to connect with whomever we are speaking with.

Almost everyone in high school will find their niche. But that opportunity is at risk in the field of the arts, that opportunity that so many today have immersed ourselves in. Dedicated hours upon hours of work. The arts community is where we have made our greatest and longest lasting friends. The community that we learned about ourselves and others in ways never conceived before. That community is suffering from a barrage of attacks, funding and support from schools and districts is being allocated elsewhere and public support for the arts is down. It is up to us, high schoolers and legislators and everyone in between, to ensure that the community we closely identify with, the pillars that support us, the moments and memories that shaped us into mature, active members of society, are preserved and protected for everyone.

We as a society grow when our opportunities grow, and this is one opportunity that we cannot and will not let others miss out on.

Scott Romano is currently a senior at Chatfield High School in Jefferson County, planning to attend the University of Denver, major in business and political science. Scott serves as a State Thespian Officer representing Colorado State Thespians.