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A Mere Experience

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

This is the beginning line from one of William Shakespeare’s most well-known monologues from the comedy As You Like It. For those who do not know the full monologue, it goes on to compare the world to a stage and life to a play, cataloging the seven stages of a person’s life, from infancy to death. I find it fitting that this quote introduces this column for a few reasons. First of all, as I am about to make a major transition in my own life within the next few weeks, these words hit close to home. But more specifically, tomorrow night is the opening of the final Annie Russell show of the 2013-2014 season; a long-form improvised piece called The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare. However, before I go forward, I must take you back.

In middle school, I had my first experience with live theatre when I was invited to see a local production of the musical Oklahoma. It may not be the most poignant of works, but something magical happened that night. From the moment I walked out of that theatre, I was hooked. I saw as much local theatre as I could, and in high school I went to every production that was put on. I even signed up to be a part of the crew my sophomore year. Unfortunately, I had to drop out after only the first few days. At the time, I took it quite hard, thinking I would never have an opportunity to be a part of a show instead of just another face in the crowd.

A few years later, I started my journey at Rollins with Freshman Orientation. I was the most nervous about what my next four years at this school would entail. As I began to get over the barrage of information I was inundated with, I was very intrigued by this thing called “ImprOvientation” that was on my schedule. I had never seen an improv show before, so I came in to the Fred Stone Theatre as a blank slate. By the time I left, I was flooded with all the feelings of love and wonder that I had first felt about theatre all those years ago. I made a vow that this time, during these four years, I would make sure I did things differently.

Through my experiences with Rollins Improv Players (RIP), and in meeting some amazing individuals who were both involved with The Sandspur and RIP, I slowly was introduced to the people who would become some of the greatest friends I have ever had. By my sophomore year, I was an avid RIP show attendant and all around “Theatre Enthusiast:” a moniker I hold near and dear to my heart. As time has gone on and four years has passed, I am truly grateful for what those special people have given to me and how much theatre, as a whole, has truly enriched my life.

Every year after the last performance of the final main stage show, there is a tradition in the theatre department known as Senior Bows. Senior theatre majors will write some words describing their experience at Rollins, thanking their mentors and peers, and literally take one final bow on the Annie stage. I have always loved this tradition, because in being given a platform to make one’s final peace, it is the perfect way to cap off the end of one chapter of life and to begin the start of the next.

With that sentiment in mind, I hope you will indulge me, for there are just a few final things I would like to say:

Love the Fred. At my time at Rollins, in that uncomfortably warm black box house I have seen some of the greatest theatre I have ever witnessed. It allows students to take artistic chances, explore serious topics, and promote social justice in ways you sometimes cannot in other venues. Above all, you have a chance to experience some of the most intimate, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking of moments, no matter if you are an audience member or a part of the cast and crew. It holds so much power and in the end, you are only as restricted as your imagination.

Say “Yes, and…” to all risks. It may be a cliché in the improv world, but it is a lesson that has gotten me through a great deal. Be bold with your decisions and be willing to accept what you cannot control.

Know that while you will not get every role you audition for, you win a personal victory every time you touch that stage. To continue to strive for your dream even when roadblock after roadblock is put in your way is one of the craziest, and yet most lion heartedly brave, acts you can do. I am humbled by your continued devotion in spite of it all. Whether you are a writer, stage manager, or actor, take solace in the fact that the personal discoveries you make through auditioning and rehearsal are sometimes more valuable than any role you may put on a resume.

Finally…thank you. There are too many to name in particular, but to those who were there to teach me, I say thank you. From the lessons I learned in my improv courses, to gaining greater freedom in my singing ability, and those who I may have only gotten to know better over the course of the last few months, I will cherish all you taught me and your genuine kindness and care.

But most importantly, to my closest friends, who taught me some of the most important lessons I have ever learned, know that you will always have a piece of my heart. Life chats in Pinehurst and parties at the Cock & Pye will always be the highlights of my time at Rollins. I would not have wanted it any other way.
From someone who never thought he would get a chance be a part of something so wonderful and is now about to open on the main stage, I am honored and privileged to have this be a capstone to my final weeks at Rollins. In the words of Shakespeare: “All’s well if all ends well.” I believe all will be well, my friends. All will be well.

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