Several moons ago I posted about the importance of Community. What that means to me and why it matters in the work we do in theater. We started the conversation and my hope with this post is to continue that conversation. I also wanted to take a quick moment to say thanks to the folks who have reached out to me. Your perspective is a gift and I’m grateful for your willingness to share it.

     “All actors and tech on stage in one minute!” This is usually a shout from the  stage manager or myself. It’s the call to our warm-up routine. There are variations in  our routines from year to year and show to show as different classes speak into the  routines in different ways. We ALWAYS gather together on the stage as a community before the show. Sometimes a student or students will lead the physical and vocal warm-ups. Even though we change the type of warm-ups as needed for the show, there are always a series of physical and vocal warm-ups involving the whole group. Actors, Technicians, Director(s), we are all in this together, we are all telling this story together and we are all preparing together.

For me, warm-ups are vital. One of the things I say to our students is that our bodies are temples. Our bodies are instruments. We use them to tell stories and our bodies need to be able to do what is required to tell the story well. We warm-up every day. Stretches, choreography, vocals, tongue twisters, yoga, meditation, the list goes on. For me, it’s not about a specific set of warm-ups. It’s about the purposeful practice of preparing ourselves for the work ahead of us. Taking the time, sometimes making the time to emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves for the work ahead.

After warm-ups we have a tradition of doing the shuffle to ABBA’s “Dancing  Queen”. New students are taught the simple moves and all of us together get our  groove on. One of these days I might be persuaded to share a clip! 🙂

After we’re warm, after we’ve danced together, we circle up on the stage, hold hands and take a few minutes to show gratitude to each other.  Some students say thank you to specific student[s] or group. Others dedicate the show to family, friends, mentors or other individuals, there’s not a specific structure to it beyond taking a moment together, in unity, to shower each other with appreciation. To model and practice gratitude

Once we’ve finished our gratitude circle different students lead us in our final group rally before myself or the stage manager shouts, “Break a leg!” Everyone claps, hugs and immediately clears the stage because usually the house opens about the  time we end.

Traditions and rituals are important to building a sense of community. There’s something grounding for us to know when we come into a space and we are a part of something larger then ourselves. I encourage embracing traditions, at least the ones which work, AND continue to build on those traditions.

We talk a lot about LEGACY and what that word means for our students especially our seniors. At the start of each new school year I meet with the seniors and we discuss legacy. We discuss ideas they have and tangible ways those can be integrated throughout the year. We call them to action, to authenticity and to community. [More on this in a later post.]

I deeply believe in the power of traditions and rituals…and here’s the caveat…as long as they are conducive to a healthy community. Hazing, “secret” groups or anything which can be perceived as exclusive is not welcome. We are about including folks, not excluding.

Ultimately, our goal is to get the students to a place where they can do this collectively together. It’s always good as the teacher to come to the table with ideas and ways I can help guide them in these practices.

One final example I’d like to offer as we close out this blog. I like to take 5 minutes or so at the beginning of class to chat. Teacher to student, student to student. Sometimes I leave it open. Sometimes I prompt with a question like, “Turn to someone and tell them a story about the most boring thing that’s happened to you this week.” 

And as always, students need to be allowed the freedom to opt out. Sometimes, we’re just not in the mood to talk. Part of an inclusive environment is allowing people to feel how they feel.

It can be hard.

It’s often messy. 

AND It’s essential.

So thanks for reading, thanks for sending me messages with your own thoughts. I’ll close with a tradition handed down to us by the late, great Ernie Casciato.

Leader: Are we going to tell this story!

Group: Yes!

Leader: Are we going to stick together!

Group: Yes!

Leader: Are we going to remember our cues!

Group: Yes!

Leader: Are we going to have fun!

Group: Yes!

Everyone: Holy Spirit come and kick us in the BUTT!!! 

Shelton