Theatre is a collaborative art.
That is one of my absolute favorite things about it. Theatre can not be done in a vaccuum. It takes a team. It requires trust. It demands that people learn to rely on each other.
When you accept a role onstage or offstage in a production, no matter how big or small, you make a commitment to the team. You promise that you have the backs of your team mate. If someone is struggling, you step in to help. If someone succeeds, you celebrate together.
This weekend, like every Martin Luther King Jr weekend for the past 7 years (at least...but 7 years ago is when I discovered this event) thousands of kids and adults from across the county (and the world some years!) gather together at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta Georgia and celebrate musical theatre. This gathering is called the Junior Theatre Festival ( #jtf )
Nothing can compare to the amazing energy that fills the convention center in Atlanta GA and the hotels that house the thousands of high energy, super excited, always singing, kids age 8-18 (not to mention their amazing teachers and supportive parents that accompany them). This year, 5800 kids gathered in Atlanta, and this year, for the first time ever, a second JTF gathering is happening on the East Coast: JTF West.
I wasn't there this year, but many of my friends were.
See, the thing about JTF is that even though you meet a person and see them occasionally throughout the 3 day event...you immediately have a bond. When you return the next year, it's all hugs and joy and excitement to see each other again.
For me, the coolest thing I ever discovered about JTF is that I am not alone. Sometimes, working in a small Midwest Community, I feel isolated. I begin to miss the college experience when I was surrounded by like minded, passionate theater artists. We all learned together. We all grew together. We helped each other.
And here, at JTF (and any of the other youth theatre conventions I have attended) I once again find that community. Like minded, passionate professionals just like me. Facing similar (if not the same) challenges I often face. Searching for unique creative material. Nurturing young minds and hearts. Helping youth find their voice, spread their wings, and tell their story.
When we find these individuals with similar skill sets, challenges, hopes, dreams, and passion...we create a bond. No longer do we feel isolated on our own little island...in our own school or community. We know that somewhere out there someone else is facing a similar challenge...or already faced it and found a solution.
It's incredibly amazing.
No matter where we are...we know, there are others out there just like us. Friends. And we are all in this together. All we have to do is reach out and ask.