You see, theater is like an arranged marriage. From the perspective of someone who chose Theater Arts without much knowledge of the said art form, of someone who’s never done a play back in high school, of someone who was never in a mile close to being in theater before college, of someone who has never watched theater plays and musicals in her free time (except Hollywood’s Les Miserable), I was kind of forced to love theater.
Last year, when people heard the words “theater arts” stumble upon my lips, and they replied with “Are you sure?”, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why the others were so afraid of our “theater practicum” class. But now, I do.
You see, there’s a reason why we have the phrase “break a leg”. A theater play is like one big magic trick, wherein the magician is willing to break his own wrists every time just to please the audience with every show. Just like a newly-wed couple that is still adjusting to the domestic life of cleaning houses and paying bills, being in theater makes you wonder: is this worth it? Is the audience really worth all the tears we have shed, all the money we have spent, all the effort we have given? Is s/he worth all my sacrifices, all my patience, all my love?
The theater is selfish. Well, people would retort that every course in college is selfish. But I disagree. Theater is even more so. And like with an arranged marriage, it doesn’t always work out. There are moments when you wonder what you have done to upset God so much to pair you with such a demanding bitch. Why can’t Fate pair you with someone kinder, someone more gentle?
It’s at this point that we forget that we, too, are becoming selfish. Arranged marriages are used as a peace treaty or as a way to strengthen business between two families. Being in the theater is a selfless act of forgetting yourself – your physical health, your money, your alone time, your academics, your social life – all in exchange of pleasing others.
It’s difficult at first. Why put so much effort into people when you’re not sure they would even appreciate it? The injustice will weigh you down. You’ll think that you deserve so much better. You’ll get mad at your high school friends and family relatives who won’t be able to watch what you’ve worked so hard for. You’ll look at the loud guests with distaste. You’ll see the theater as a hell that you have to put up with every goddamn day. Every action you make becomes a live performance that you have to fake.
And how can you not look at it in such a bad image? When you see the people you’re working with sacrificing so much, and receiving so little in return, how can you not hate the people they’re sacrificing so much for?
There will come a time when you will be so close to filing a divorce case with the course you have married; a time when you will feel that you’re better off somewhere else – free of obligations and commitment, where you will worry about achieving your own happiness, where you will think about nothing but yourself.
When I was at this point, at this terrifying edge of my figurative cliff, teetering between staying and leaving, I did the bravest thing I could ever have done so far – I waited. I waited for a miracle. Something that can make me genuinely love what I was doing. I waited for the storm to pass. I waited for the sun to rise. I waited for the smoke to fade. I used whatever I had as a shield against the temptation of an easier life.
And then… it came.
The sound of genuine laughter after a line that I’ve heard of a thousand times reached the ears of virgin minds. The high squeaks of fear from high school students as we shocked them with the magic tricks we’ve all lost slept for to perfect. The tear-strained cheeks of children and adults alike. The buzz of wonder as they walked out of the theater, discussing their ephemeral experience before it fades from their memory forever.
It’s the little things that make you stay in a marriage. The little things that turn duty into dedication.
From then on, every sweep of the floor was accompanied with a wave of fondness. Every step I took along the aisle of the audience seats reminded me of why I haven’t left, of why I shouldn’t.
So what’s it like being a theater arts student?
It’s faking a smile, and receiving a genuine one. It’s repeatedly saying “thank you for watching”, with the hopes that someone will reply with a “Congrats!”. It’s about living for the little things. It’s about living for others. It’s knowing that if you want to witness a beautiful sunrise, then first you have to go through the blackest night.
It’s offering your limbs to ideals, people, stories, places – content with the fact that, from nothingness you were born, and from nothingness you shall return. That does not mean however, that your life was worth nothing. Your worth is seen through the people you have influenced. And as a theater arts student? You will influence a lot.