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Reflections of Middle School from a 15 year graduate...
Katie Walker, '92

A Teacher Who Had an Impact on My Life

"You can always tell who the drama kids are... the ones with paint splattered all over their jeans on Wednesdays." Mr. James Neal, my junior high drama teacher, always teased us as we complained about looking less than perfect; what a travesty for 12 year old girls. Wednesdays were "tech" days where after school show tunes would blare from the speakers as we hammered, nailed, and painted the set. Obviously, we all could bring a change of clothes so we could sport our latest pair of Z Cavariccis or tight-rolled Levis in the halls between classes. None of us ever did. Mr. Neal acknowledged us as "drama kids". I was a seventh grader and Mr. Neal knew who I was; he recognized my dedication, and praised me for it. I was cool.

Looking back, I laugh at myself. When was being a drama kid ever cool? Mr. Neal certainly thought so, and it was contagious. I spent every moment I could in that theatre or rather a simple stage connected to the multi-purpose room. My friends and I would hurriedly finish lunch to spend the rest of the hour with Mr. Neal and all his wisdom. Only a red curtain separated us from screaming seventh and eighth graders who preferred to spend the only free time in the day gossiping and throwing food. We would read plays, cut scenes, paint props; anything to dedicate ourselves. I wanted to feel the passion that my junior high drama teacher felt. With all his talent, I often wondered why he taught at the junior high level instead of professionally pursuing directing or scenic design. I finally asked him. He responded, "I didn't even know what drama was 'til college. A friend and I took a blow off class just to meet girls. After one day, I knew I had been robbed. I wish I had someone to teach me this stuff at your age"

And so Mr. Neal now only taught me the finer points of theatre arts, but he also taught me about dedication. I remember my eighth grade year during our production of The Wizard of Oz. We had a pretty dismal dress rehearsal. We opened in two days and our performance was lacking, actors were laughing backstage, and focus was at an all time low. Mr. Neal gathered us around the foot of the stage. "My daughter is being inducted into the National Honor Society tonight," his tired face mustered. "But I'm not there. I'm here. I made a promise to you at the very first rehearsal that I would be here. That I would be here everyday for the past month. You, as a cast, are not here. Take five minutes and remember the promise you made to me to be here and we'll run it from the top."

Tears welled up in my eyes. I had let him down. The cast spread out so we could all take our five minutes. I hid behind a colorful piece of munchkinland scenery, a piece I had painted myself. I struggled to remember all the time I had put into this production and couldn't help but cry over Mr. Neal missing time with his family. Then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. There were Mr. Neal's droopy eyes. "Oh, Katie. The ones with tears are never the ones that need a lecture." And then he hugged me. I wiped my face, fixed my stage makeup, and then brilliantly portrayed Auntie Em.

As I set goals for the type of teacher I want to become, I think back to Mr. Neal. I've patterned my dedication to theatre after his example. Always on time and always professional, I looked forward to each class and each rehearsal. My passion for the work always outweighed the passion of performance and I credit Mr. Neal for this. If I can become half the teacher and role model that he was for me, I will have achieved success.

Dinner Theatre 2006, Alumni Comments
Matt Kaufmann, '02

Hello everyone, My name is Matt Kaufmann. I am from the graduating class of 2002 and am currently a senior at Warren Township. I am up here tonight because I received a call last week wondering if I could speak in front of all of you. I didn't even have to think twice before I made my decision. And when I learned I would get a free meal, well that just put icing on the cake. Next year I'm going to college and I'm trying to store up on all the good food I can get before I'm sucked into Meatloaf Mondays in the dorms.

I was asked to share with everyone what Viking Drama means to me and how it has molded the person I am today. I thought...SIMPLE! I'll just go up there and kind of just wing it because Viking Drama means so much to me. But when I was contemplating what I would say, I realized that I could stammer on and on for a longer time than what we are allotted tonight. So I went to my computer and began typing and then saw that I had written a 10 page speech. I thought, well, American Idol is on Tuesday and Wednesday so everyone should have plenty of time to hear my speech, and then my mom told me that I would probably bore everyone to death.
So this is what I came up with and hopefully it doesn't take all night.

Viking Drama means much more to me than words can describe. Although it has been 4 years since I have been in a play here, it still feels like it is my home away from home. There is a certain aura that this stage projects. It gives us a sense of comfort, pride, family, community, and love. I have learned so many lessons from being involved in this theatre program, and all of them have shaped the person I am today. Viking Drama is the place which first gave me the chance to be me.

As a young adolescent, I was lost. I had no guidance and there was still a world out there which I felt completely secluded from. But Viking Drama opened the doors to opportunity for me and in a way, brought me under its wing. Like every student who has been involved in this program, I was given responsibilities which normal kids my age were never given. I was allowed to really learn what it meant to be self-sufficient and to take responsibility for my actions. Viking Drama taught me the meaning of sacrifice, commitment, leadership, honesty, empowerment, and selfless giving.

As I look into the eyes of all the current young adolescents in the crowd, I see the same spark I had in my eye, and still have to this day. Viking Drama becomes a part of us, like our shadow. We are here every day, either up in the booth, in the office, laying down in the costume room, or roughing our knees searching for lost drops under the stage. We are here in the mornings before school to organize events, to keep things running, and to put together odds and ends. We are here after school at rehearsals till 6:30, sometimes 7 working on songs and dances and acting and set building. And sometimes we are here on weekends putting up lights and inserting gels with Mr. Neal, eating our lunch and dinner out of the vending machines and the 5 year old scraps we find on the floor under his desk because to Mr. Neal it's not the 3 second rule, but rather the 5 minute rule.

I want all of you to look down at the pictures at your tables. It is your sons and daughters who created these sets, who organized these costumes, who put on the makeup, who set the lights, who put this whole production together. With a little guidance and motivation, your children created all of the magic that lies on the table and surrounds you right now. I think you can all agree with me when I say what they create on this stage is simply amazing.

But, in my opinion, the one aspect of this program which makes it stand out the most is how it projects the importance of bonds and relationships. Here on this stage, we don't treat each other as cast mates or as friends; we treat each other as family. My favorite part of rehearsal was always "family time", where we all sat in a circle on the stage and shared with each other a little piece of ourselves. In this circle we didn't just simply learn what everyone's favorite ice cream was or their most embarrassing moment, we learned about who they were.

We talked about our issues and problems. We talked about our triumphs and our failures. When you start a play, there is always an invisible wall in the middle of the stage. Sure you can try to work around the wall and sure you can still create a good play, but the real magic only happens when the wall is broken. This wall is with each other. You have to learn to be comfortable with your peers and to be able to tell anyone in the cast or crew your darkest secret, and not feel ashamed if they see you cry.

If the image is not clearly being painted in your minds, then I will give you an example. During my 7th grade musical, every person in the cast was required to wear a full body leotard which exposed every curve and crevice of their bodies. Now let's back up a second. Would you want to wear a bright orange full body leotard in front of all of your friends and colleagues? That's what I thought. But we had no choice, and the only way we could conquer this awkward obstacle was if we all became comfortable as an individual and as a whole. So for a whole week straight, I remember sitting in the circle in only our leotards and talking. Soon enough it didn't matter that we were wearing them, because we not only became trusting of each other, but of ourselves. I don't think I could have worn my leotard in front of any of my friends if it wasn't for my family in the play. This is what I mean when I talk about the families that we create, no matter what they were always there for you and at the end of the production, it was hard to let that go.

Viking drama brings people together that would normally never talk to each other, and these bonds stand the test of time. Some of my best friends 'til this day are who I experienced Viking drama with. I can turn to them with anything and vice versa. These are the people who have seen me at my worst moments, my best moments, and my more typical ones. We have all gone through the process as hard as it has been, and we have made it through together. If we never had Viking to create a bond between us, I don't know where I would have been today.

So before I start rambling on even more, I would just like to leave on one final note. Viking drama isn't just an organization or program or stage, it is a tradition. As I said before, it has been 4 years since I have been in a play here, but at the end of every show, I am brought back to the stage where I learned it all. After every show I can count on the song which I have sung numerous times that always begins with the words, "there´s no greater feeling in the world than what we're feeling right now," and its true. When I sing this song, I am brought back to the memories I shared with so many people on this stage and am reminded of how truly fortunate I am for have experienced this amazing program.

The alumni song brings everyone together be it my age, 5 years older than me, or even the freshmen which I have been so fortunate to work with. Every person who sings this song holds a special bond with each other, because no matter what, they have all gone through same struggles and hurdles and burdens and moments of glory. I believe that this is why this program stands the test of time, because of its tradition, and I truly believe that our community is blessed for it.

As for myself, I have been to Disney World and back countless times now. And I cannot tell you all the mishaps that have happened across the way: flat tires, broken bumpers, ending up in the Grand Canyon, and abduction from aliens which a few of us really try to forget and move on. But no matter where I go, Disney, College, Waukegan, I will always carry the words of one wise traveler with me: "Many Hands Make light Work" and I hope that this light continues to guide me through all my future endeavors and Viking's as well. Thank You

-Matt Kaufmann

Dinner Theatre 2006, Alumni Comments
Melanie Bacaling, '05

No Greater Feeling Than Viking Drama

Good evening. My name is Melanie Bacaling, I graduated from Viking last year and am now a freshman at Warren High School.

The theater program here is absolutely amazing, demonstrating a high level of professionalism for over 30 years. "Viking Drama".... Never were there two words that meant so much. If I was to tell you about all of my experiences, thoughts, and feelings about Viking Drama and how it affected me, weÕd be here all night and I wouldn't be able to stop talking. So I will try to make this as short, sweet, and to the point as possible.

The truth is that the feeling and experience that someone gets from being involved with Viking Drama is beyond words. Our directors here have taught us more lessons than any other person could in a lifetime. From the importance of commitment and dedication to basic skills in the technical field such as the use of power tools. I mean, how many of you can really say that you know how to build a Broadway flat or a ramp coming off the stage? We take on these responsibilities that normally may not be entrusted to middle school students.

A few years ago I went to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska and attended a workshop for publicizing and raising money for theatre programs. The man teaching this workshop was showing people how to create these special themed programs and one of the people in the workshop asked, "Should the parents or the students make the programs?" Immediately the man teaching the workshop responded, "Oh no! Never give the responsibility to the students! They could mess the whole thing up!" Take a look at the program in front of you and try to tell someone that this is "all messed up."

Many people won't give kids responsibilities because they're afraid of the students making mistakes. But are we not taught that it's ok to make mistakes and that some of the greatest lessons learned are from your mistakes? How does an adolescent learn if he/she isn't given the opportunity? This program was put together by a wonderful crew of middle school students. Everything that you see before you tonight and in all Viking Drama productions are completely student empowered. We are taught the importance of a good work ethic, taking with us the constant reminder of "take pride in your work" and the ever famous "many hands make light work."

These lessons I have taken with me and apply to everything I do. It has helped me become a good leader, teacher, and learner. The transition one goes through in this program is quite significant. Some of these students before you tonight may never end up in the theatrical field and some could end up being Broadway stars. Either way, Viking Drama will be with them for the rest of their lives.

It helps students cross the bridge of adolescence. It helps give a sense of responsibility, ensemble, and community. It gives a place to belong and take risks. To many it's a very dear second home and family.

Parents, I hope that you can be proud of your children and continue to support them in all they do. Their works have been many. Viking Drama is something special. Something that is very difficult to describe in words alone and hard to understand unless one has truly been through it and gone through the whole experience. Please continue to support it, and don't let it die out. Viking Drama has changed our lives so much and has touched our hearts. The memories here will last a lifetime and will be shared for years to come. I feel proud and thankful for having experienced theatre through Viking Drama.

Real quick, I ask that you take out your programs and turn to page 35. This song was written especially for the Viking Theatre Program by the lovely and talented Marilynn Walters who worked with Mr. Neal for many years doing the musical direction for the musicals. One day she was inspired by Viking's Theatre philosophy to write this song and it has been sung at the end of every single musical done in this program since 1991 and the words ring true each time it is sung.

I ask that sometime you just go over it and think about what it represents. I'm sure many of you are very familiar with it. Viking Drama has many traditions old and new, but I'd have to say that this is one of the most important. This song is one of the soul connections between all Viking Theatre students past and present. It also establishes a connection with the audience. I believe this is the best expression of how we feel at the end of a show and another way to help audiences understand and experience that theatre magic.

So please, take the time to help support Viking Drama and keep it going. There are some wonderful auction items along the side wall over there and also check out the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids table in the lobby. Follow the acts of self-less giving that your children and students before them have brought to this program. May it still be striving for many years to come. Thank you.

Closing Remarks
Awards Night, 2001
Ashley Rodbro, '01

What is Viking Drama? Upon hearing this question for the first time, I had absolutely no idea how to answer it. But since September, I've begun to realize what makes Viking Drama so valuable.

Drama isn't just about the final product, which is seen by the audience. In fact, my list of things Viking Drama is about has almost nothing to do with the final product at all. It is about the process.

We often talk about our shows as trips to Disney World. At the beginning of the year, we all got back on the bus to make the long, treacherous, and yet rewarding journey. However, our bus ran straight into a street lamp. For, it wasn't anyones fault but our own that we got into this accident. But , the tow truck came, we rested, and got a new bus. However, it took so long to get to Disney World, that by the time we got there, we had used up all of our energy. In fact, we aren't sure if we got to Disney World. But we'll never forget the trip there.

That is what this is all about. Viking Drama is about cooperation and empowerment. It's about commitment and leadership and learning. It's about selfless giving and the infamous "burden". It's about sacrifice. It's about trust and it's about joy. It's about acknowledging and learning from the past. It's about the process of completion.

The year has been a difficult one. To those who have stuck with it until the bitter end, I am eternally grateful. We would never have made it to May without you. For those of you who came in somewhere in the middle, your faith has kept us positive.

While we are in the middle of things, we aren't always able to understand what will become of situations. It isn't until we step back and look at the bigger picture, that we see what we are learning.

The first semester was difficult. It was different and the change hurt our spirits. But my mother calmly told me, "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger". I told her I thought it would kill me. But in the end, I realized that she was right. We all learned a lot this year. Whether it was about theatre, others, or ourselves.

The road takenthis year was long and difficult and painful. It was full of sacrifice and choices. It was a learning experience that has made us all stronger. Whether we gained strength as a group or whether we gained individual strength of both, it is that strength that has kept Viking drama going, through thick and thin.

To the 6th graders, keep your chins up and keep the Viking Drama spirit alive. To the 7th graders, you are the future of the club. Remember tradition. To my fellow 8th graders, don't forget what you've experienced here and carry it with you throughout high school and the rest of your life. I heard a quote that said, "Don't wait until everything is nearly perfect before being happy or optimistic; be superior to circumstances." That is very appropriate for this year. Many people involved in Drama Club and this year's show have found this to be true. Theatre is about cooperation. And without those with positive outlooks despite all that's occured, we would not have been as successful as we were this year.

Mr. Neal once told me that theatre is about our being one. One voice of many voices joined in the triumphant hymn celebrating synergy, our interdependence and our joy. That is the essence of Viking Drama Club.

Only time heals some wounds, and while the club has been hurt, slowly but surely, we are returning to the level of standards that we once knew.

To the 8th graders this year is our legacy. Despite our hard work in other years, th was our year. That makes me very proud. Because when we fell, we got back up and have risen tothe occasion. After all, Viking Drama is about falling and it's about rising.

While I am sad to leave, I am also joyful because I know that people our age are capable of so much. I am also pleased to know that through everything, the club can survive.

On a final note, let's agree to make the very most of our time and celebrate life though the rich texture of people God's provided for us.
I am not sure if we are ever able to say exactly what we mean, but tonight, I believe I have come dangerously close. Thank you to everyone who has given a piece of your time, your love, and your effort to Viking Drama. Now please join us for refreshments in the back of the room. Bye bye and buy bonds.

Ashley Rodbro, Club President
May 23rd, 2001

Closing Remarks
Awards Night, 2000

Laura Calhoun, '00

Viking Drama is about Joy.

It's about sacrifice and commitment.

It's about time and pride.

It's about quality and standards.

It's about humbling ourselves.

It's about making it across the "bridge".

It's about leaders and followers.

It's about fulfillment and completion.

It's about doing your job. It's about responsibility.

It's about trust and honesty.

It's about advice and constructive criticism.

It's about falling and it's about rising.

It's about focus.

It's about burdens and work.

It's about teaching and it's about learning.

It's about empowerment and knowing.

It's about tradition and it's about GLORY.

These are some of the few things Viking Drama has taught us. It has touched our lives. I only wish everyone could have a chance to go through it. It's a mark on our hearts and it will never leave us. Drama has given us all something to remember, and to delight in looking back on. It has given us something to feel proud about.

I don't think we'll ever forget some of the moments we've had together here. I know we will all cherish our family times, our hugs at the end of every rehearsal, our closeness, and the encouragement and criticism that we each gave and received. Viking Drama has changed our lives. It's given us a place to belong and come together in fellowship with one another. It has most definitely been a very challenging year, but it's just another experience from which we've all gained so much. This has made such an impact in our lives and I know, especially for us 8th graders--we're devastated that it's all coming to an end. But ya know it's really not the end. There are still so many awesome experiences to come even though that's hard for us to understand right now. This is just one chapter in our lives that is coming to the last few pages, but we've still got a whole book to live. And I'd just like to end with a further thought from a very wise and special friend.

"When a door of happiness closes, another opens but often times we look so hard at the closed door that we don't see the one which has been opened for us". So, I'm challenging all of us to celebrate our years in drama at Viking, but to make sure that we're also looking out for more bright experiences ahead.

Thank you all for coming and have a wonderful evening.

Laura Calhoun, Club President
May 30th, 2000

Student Poem
on the occasion of Mr. Neal's Retirement,
June, 2003

-Jason Economus, '95


Coffee breath detected a mile away...Jim Neal
Show tunes blaring from the cafetorium...Jim Neal
A voice that brings one peace or tears...Jim Neal
Salt & pepper hair, crooked teeth, wrinkles around the eyes that tell a story...Jim Neal
Odd sense of humor...Jim Neal
Telling things to middle schoolers that you don't even begin to understand until you are in your
twenties, not even then is it a guarantee you'll get it...Jim Neal
Many hands make light work...Jim Neal
Tie-dye shirts, suspenders and tuxedos - the dress-up guy;
Saw-dusted, paint-stained and forehead-bruised - the skilled craftsman;
Flying lost boys, melting witches, and ducks to swans - theatre artist.
The child, the prophet, the loner, the lover, the visionary, the voice in the wildness,
The wise sage, the fool the counselor, the friend and dream maker, the rare,
The precious, the honorable and noble...Jim Neal.

Never have I known one more passionate, more true, more dedicated to excellence
Never have I known one more who lived what he preached,
A gospel of sharing, inclusion, beauty and self-sacrifice.
Never have I known one who dared to make a difference more than he,
Wore his heart on his sleeve, built a program of theatre, empowering adolescents,
That is celebrated as truly one of its kind, and is a miracle in and of itself.
Whether pursuing the highest quality and well-rounded education for children.
Or making sure old trees aren't cut down from his neighborhood.
Never have I known one more committed to character,
Making the earth better after his passing through,
railing against the dying of the light - than he.

With a laugh so much like a free and happy child,
With thoughts that are profound and simple.
With a view of life that is challenging and terrifying in its splendor,
loveliness and magnificence.
With a heart that truly is overflowing with love.
This man has truly been our humble servant and must be recognized and respected as such.

Not as a retiring teacher, no don't let the title fool you,
There is much more standing before you here today.
There is a man who in one way or another heard his calling and followed,
Has touched and changed the lives of countless human beings,
Has shaped in those around him a lifelong sense of working towards togetherness and goodness.
Here is a humble servant, as he signs all his programs.

And after knowing him for nearly a decade,
First as a student, then as a colleague, and now at long last as a friend,
I can say no truer statement than that of him.
A life rich in mistakes and glories, times of brokenness and gladness,
Simply but not so simply lived - a life of service to others - a life of love.
A man who does his best teaching over dinner and a beer.
Thank you, Jim Neal.

-J. Economus

Student Thoughts
on the Value of
Middle School Theatre

Betsy Fritz, '99

Hey Mr. Neal, I wrote this essay about theatre for World Civ and my teacher thought it would be nice to send it to you. It's long, and I'm not sure if you'll like it, but I just thought I'd send it and see what you think Love: Betsy Fritz

It all began just two years ago. A simple chance meeting in a hallway in Viking Junior High with Viking's theatrical director, Jim Neal, and suddenly most of my time has become committed to an intellectual pursuit, theatre. Theatre is an intellectual pursuit because it is pursed simply to expand my knowledge. I do not plan to continue theatre as a career, but instead pursue it partly because it is enjoyable.

There are a few other stand out reasons for my interest in theatre, such as feeling accepted, agreeing with theatrical philosophies, making friends, and communicating with an audience. Theatre has only been a part of my life for a short time, but it feels much longer because of all that has happened so quickly. I have seen quite a few plays, even though I have only been in two. I have become a Thespian, which requires 100 hours of excellent theatre work, and have attended the International Thespian Festival this past summer.

Many aspects of my life have come to include theatre, and yet right now it does not seem like a career option. I have not wondered why so much of my time is committed to theatre, but it is necessary to explore this part of my life, and to be introspective, to understand myself.

First, it is important to explore how much of my time theatre actually takes up. It has only been two years, but much of those two years has been devoted to my intellectual passion of theatre. The first production concerned with my intellectual pursuit was "The Hobbit." I began with the technical aspect of theatre work by running sound for the Viking Junior High show. The experience was awakening. My life had consisted of drifting through athletic programs, without success, and suddenly here was something I could do. Many new friends accepted me as who I was instead of who others wanted me to be.

I first stepped on the stage in "Snowed In," the Monologue Show at Viking, and began to understand the trust and work that has to go into theatre. Experiencing the exhilaration of performing and sharing a small part of myself with an audience for the first time was amazing. I had to trust myself and my new friends when trying out for the Spring musical, "Godspell," just a couple of months later. This show turned the hobby into the major intellectual pursuit it is now. Working nonstop on the show was essential. Three hour rehearsals every night, one hour after rehearsals memorizing, at least four hours on the weekend, and countless hours spent thinking about "Godspell" made up my life in the spring of 1999.

The practice continued through spring break during a vacation at Disney World. The long lines for rides came in handy when songs had to be rehearsed over and over again. The show was a success, and has effected my life greatly. Having a complete new set of friends, a new idea of who I can be, and overcoming creative shyness are all effects of becoming involved in theatre. Even at a young age, I cannot imagine my life without "Godspell." Plus, I had become a Junior Thespian. My time devoted to theatre had exceeded 100 hours, and consequently made me eligible to attend the International Thespian Festival.

During just one week in the summer of 1999 I attended close to 15 shows and many acting workshops, including "Combat for Beginnings," "The Del-Sign Approach to Physical Acting," and "Muse with the Mime." The plays included "Sweet Charity," "Godspell," and "Tartuffe." Along with the thousands of other adolescents attending the Thespian Festival, I felt completely accepted. I was a part of a group much larger than myself, and was appreciated. I continued acting that summer by appearing in Viking's Gurnee Days show "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." Passing on my love of theatre to younger individuals, and once again devoting time to one of my most important intellectual passions, proved to be invigorating.

Life continued, and high school began this fall. My plan to refrain from joining extra-curricular activities before learning how difficult my classes would be changed when theatre re-entered my life. Auditioning for Warren's fall play, "Auntie Mame" was irresistible. Surprisingly, I was one of the two Freshmen to make the show, and although my part was small, the play fulfilled my dedication to theatre. "Auntie Mame" was another success, but its rehearsal schedule was quite short, so it was not long before my creative need arose.

I decided to try out for Speech Team at Warren, and successfully secured a spot on the team. The new friends from Speech Team have already contributed to my high school career. Theatre creates an environment prefect for bonding between friends, and Speech Team has not been an exception. Speech Team consists of two or three hour rehearsals at least twice a week, and up to 15 hour meets on Saturday. Needless to say, all of this involvement in theatre is a major contributor to the person I am developing into.

My desire for more active participation in theatre does not stop there. After learning how to run a sound board, I began regularly running sound at my church. This has brought more caring individuals into my life, and requires me to attend church at least twice a month. It is satisfying to bring a service to my church also. Furthermore, the theatrical shows I have attended continue to increase.

So far they include: "Rent," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "The Schemings of Scalan," "Blue Man Group," "Hello Dolly," "The Phantom of the Opera," and "1940's Radio Hour." I plan to lengthen this list as often as possible. The shows inspire me each time as they deliver their unique messages.

"Rent" has especially touched me with its message of hope and love. The play instills the need to spend each moment as your last because it very easily could be. The creator of the play, Jonathan Larson, died from an aneurysm just a few days before the show opened. That twist helped the show to inspire me even more. My intellectual interest also causes me to purchase many CD's, including the soundtracks of "Rent" and "The Phantom of the Opera." The CD's help to continue the spirit of the shows in my heart, and often seem necessary to restore the message the show portrays at least several times a month. Nothing else seems to affect my mood more than the energy in live performance, even if it has to be recreated on a CD.

Finally, though I have not read a play on my own time, trying to stay updated on the Chicago theatre scene is important. The "Tempo" section in the Chicago Tribune usually has quite interesting articles and reviews about the latest hit shows, which help me to choose what shows to see. Reading more plays, and venturing into that section of theatre will hopefully pique my interest soon.

Now that the intellectual pursuit of theatre has been thoroughly explained, I realize the great amount of my time actually devoted to the pursuit. Until exploring the details of this interest, theatre seemed to be just another hobby in my life. But, it seems theatre is more than just a hobby. Before, I shaped and controlled my involvement in theatre programs, but after discovering how often theatre enters my life, it appears that theatre shapes me.

To truly be introspective, one must explore why an intellectual pursuit, such as theatre, is such a large part of her life. There are four reasons that stand out in my situation: the acceptance in theatrical programs, my agreement with the philosophies taught and associated with theatre, discovering the most exceptional friendships in theatrical programs, and the belief it is very important to communicate with an audience.

First, theatre has become one of my major intellectual pursuits because of the acceptance felt in theatrical environments. I recall a memory from eighth grade when I failed to make the school volleyball team for the second time. I rushed home after my name was missing from the list of the team, and cried. My name always seemed to be missing from the list after trying out for a sport. Suddenly, the realization that I had not ventured into the theatre program at school hit me. When I volunteered to help with "The Hobbit," my name was on the list. I remember being incredibly excited, but also nervous. Wondering if rejection would greet me while trying to break into the Drama Club at Viking was terrifying.

Yet the Drama Club seemed to be more of an open circle of friends instead of a club. My experience with athletics always seems to end the instant I do not make the team, but in theatre there is always room for anyone who would put in the time. Anyone who is willing to work hard can succeed in theatre because the skills needed range from performing a one man show to belting out a tune to bolting together a flat. There are so many lessons to be learned in theatre that I have never decided against trying out for a play. For some reason, it simply feels natural.

The acceptance and security in the theatrical environments I have experienced so far further promote interest. Yet as a career in theatre progresses, the competition becomes fierce. That is one of the reasons why my plans do not include continuing theatre as a career. Unless someone is certain that theatre is their only option for happiness, she should not venture into the career. The rejection comes often, and the success comes rarely. Hopefully, my theatrical commitment will continue until at least Senior year, partly because of acceptance.

Furthermore, theatre has become a major intellectual pursuit in my life because I agree with the philosophies associated with theatre. One such philosophy is that only hard work and endless hours will bring success. Countless hours were spent working on "Godspell," and only that led to success. The show would not have been as exceptional as it was, if not for the devotion of time. Theatre is one of the most time consuming hobbies a person could commit themselves to, but the payoff always equals the time given.

Over and over again, the director of "Godspell," Jim Neal, spoke of the hours that needed to be contributed to the show. The hard work of the cast and crew truly shined during the show's short run. Another philosophy that goes along with hard work is trusting in fellow cast and crew members. Someone could work for years on a show, but unless she trusts the others working, the show could not live up to its potential. Trust is essential for a good performance. When someone is performing, she is pouring out her heart and soul, and she cannot worry about embarrassing herself in front of fellow cast members.

Theatre is a very delicate balance of relationships, and trust must be established before a person is able to completely concentrate on becoming her character. Trust is also a basis for relationships outside of theatre. It must exist in a marriage or friendship before the relationship can succeed. Learning to trust is one of the most difficult and most valuable lessons someone can learn. Theatre effectively teaches that hard work pays off, and that trust is essential in any relationship.

Another significant reason why theatre has developed into such a large intellectual pursuit in my life, is because of the amazing friendships that are formed through the work involved in theatre. There is one certain event that truly illustrates the love shared through theatre. Closing night of "Godspell" was just as invigorating as opening night, but after the show had ended almost every person in the cast and crew burst into tears. The tears continued through midnight when parents watched as their children said their good-byes.

Realizing how much it hurt to walk away from these people I had grown so close to was one of the most touching moments of my life. After exposing my emotions to them, and making myself vulnerable, it felt wonderful to know that they were willing to do the same for me. Throughout my life, friends had entered and exited, but leaving the love of these friends seemed much harder than before. It is not possible to fully explain how such deep bonding occurs so quickly, but after experiencing it, I do not want it to stop.

Finally, theatre has become an intellectual pursuit in my life because communicating to an audience is extremely important. While athletics are worthwhile, and those who participate gain from athletic programs, the crowd at an athletic event is not changed after the game. The goal of each team is not to illustrate a life lesson to the crowd, it is to win. Most theatrical shows are trying to teach a lesson and communicate an important idea. "Rent" effected me because of its lesson of living for each day. A Bulls' game does not usually change a person's view of the world, but theatre did just that for me.

While in "Godspell," I was helping the audience to grow and realize how trivial many of the worries in life are. The goal of "Godspell" was not to show how wonderful the cast and crew were. Instead, we went on the stage in order to teach. There is a reason for every life on earth, and I now believe part of that reason is to help each other develop and mature emotionally. My experiences in theatre have helped me to fulfill that reason for my life. Through "Godspell," I helped others become closer to God, and that is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.

Theatre has changed my life. I am more mature and trusting, worry less about what to wear, and more about my thoughts. Theatre helps someone to feel comfortable about opening up because she must do that when she is on stage. Theatre teaches that trust is essential in family life and friendships, and theatre has helped me to understand how important trust is. I am more confident because theatre did not reject me.

Because of the acceptance, philosophies, friendships, and messages shared in theatre, this artistic medium will continue to change me. Theatre is a worthwhile activity that all humans should experience at least once in their life. I will probably continue theatre, at least as a hobby, for the rest of my life. The pure exhilaration, love, and freedom experienced each time I perform, helps me to understand why theatre is the most extensive intellectual pursuit in my life.