By Jordan D’Amico
My name is Jordan D’Amico. I am fifteen years old and consider Marquee to be my second home. My happy-place. As of today, I have been involved in seventeen musical and non-musical productions with them and am obviously in love with dramatic arts. Because of them, I am confident. I am happy. But that was not always the case. If you looked at me five or six years ago, this Jordan D’Amico was a completely different person. Not only was I shy, I was insecure and extremely unconfident. Along with having barely any friends, I also never felt that I ever had any real purpose in life.
This was until that one fateful day that I am forever grateful for.
It was the beginning of summer of 2015. I was getting ready for another break and school year of doing absolutely nothing. Until that day. Yonge Street had closed in the little York Region town of Aurora for the annual Street Fair. While I was most excited for the ice cream, tornado fries, and bubble guns, little did I know that my life was going to change course that day to the greatest path imaginable. Between the knick-knack vendor and the ice cream truck sat a small booth with a single person inside. I did not pay any attention to it, but my mom sure did and pulled me along to check out the little white tent with “Marquee Theatrical Productions” displayed on top. While my mom did some ‘grown-up talk’ with the lady behind the desk, I zoned out. Not knowing that come this time next year, I would be unrecognizable, and for the better.
I had learned later that night that I had been signed up for the very first extracurricular activity of my life. And when I heard what I would be doing, I’ll admit, I was not too impressed.
Every Wednesday and Saturday starting February I would be going to the studio of Marquee Theatrical Productions to be a part of a show of ‘Hairspray Jr.’ While my mom seemed ecstatic and happy for me, I did not seem to care. For months I had forgotten about it. And when the first Wednesday came I had only remembered that I had something to go to after school, once school had ended. I went into the car, drove to this place, hung up my coat, and immediately wondered, “Is it over yet? Is it home-time?” All with my then-negative attitude. After dancing, singing, and reading dialogue for an hour or two, I came home, admittedly out-of-it. But my mom was determined to keep me in it for just a little longer.
Days had gone by. It was now Saturday. The first day of auditions. My mom and I had gone over the song, dance routine, and lines provided to us for days before the casting audition finally came. And when it did, what I felt was… strange. But in all the right ways I’d find. Going up in front of everyone, doing something in front of them that I had worked hard on made me feel… important. Happy. I did not know the full extent of these feelings until the actual show day arrived. I experienced some odd emotions there too. I was nervous, but excited. Usually it’s one or the other. What happened next is all that I’ve been talking about. Everything I’ve been building up to. The moment I walked onto the stage in front of the full house. As I struck the first dance move, sang the first word of the first song number with everyone else, and then eventually said my solo-lines in front of so many, my life was different. For the first time of my life I had felt like I truly meant something and was truly a crucial part of a greater whole. It was fantastic to say the least. I’ll tell you, I came out of the theatre that night, as I said I would, completely unrecognizable to my older self. I had the biggest smile on my face. The boy who wished the first class would be over quick was now wishing he could do the show a thousand times over. I felt alive.
After this, my mom signed me up for the next show after this: Seussical. And after that, another program. And another program after that. Soon I began to realize why I loved it so much:
It Was Like Therapy for the Heart and Soul.
I had discovered the mental healing that went on within me when I put on the costume and spoke a new tongue. Playing the part of someone else and identifying different emotions was like a way to vent my young frustrations and desires. Wants and needs. Loves and hates. Not only did it let me experience previously bottled up feelings in a safe setting, but it also taught me what exactly I was feeling and also ways to control it. It was essentially early emotional education.
It Made Feel Special and Important.
Like mentioned before, I felt important when part of this collaborative effort where everyone has a role to play (literally). My modern philosophy is that there is no such thing as a small opportunity nor a small role to play. And this was all true as everyone had something to do that was imperative to the makeup of the final product. Which, in turn, boosted my personal confidence.
I Finally had REAL Friends.
Theatre taught me socializing and intersocial literacy. And this all happened naturally though the collaborative process. Not only that, but I was in something that all the students there were interested in; so already we had common interests.
It Taught me How to Solve Problems on the Spot.
While a movie or show can cut, edit, and shoot a different take, theatre is all in one go. There is no starting over, just huddling through. Mistakes were not punished in theatre, but celebrated and had taught me how to use them to my advantage. Not only this, but having a situation where you must think fast and witty when a problem occurs taught me how to think on my feet and how to save a situation in trouble. An extremely useful set of skills for life.
Which leads me to my next talking point.
A Problem Uncovered:
School, while helpful in teaching you reading, writing, and the square root of pi, neglects teaching children the most important skills that they will ever need:
- Social Skills
- Solving quick problems
And above all…
- How to truly LIVE HAPPY.
We get so caught up in teaching literacy and our STEM’s, (which, don’t get me wrong, ARE very important), that we forget that while our brains need to grow, so too do our souls. That is why I think each child, whether or not they pursue it further in the future, should have not only education through school, but also through the theatre. Education, its entire point, is to prepare us for the future. And if I didn’t go back to class after that first night, if my mom had not signed me up, if we had never seen that little white booth at the Street Fair, I could not imagine my present.
Children need an outlet to live their art, and not a life that is constantly discouraging it. Children need the tools to allow them to grow into their OWN skin, whatever that may be, instead of someone trying to shape them in another way. And many experts, along with me with my personal experience, completely agree that theatre is one of the best ways to develop the soul of a child to create a more confident, more experienced, more secure, more alive adult in the future.
What is the Takeaway From This?
For parents and guardians, current, planning, or expecting, listen to me here: The best thing you can do for your child while they are still young is to put them on stage. Give them the arts, and their wings will shine! And remember: They do not need to become the next Meryl Streep, Chadwick Boseman or Tom Hanks, or even an actor at all when they grow up. All they need is to be exposed to the magic of the arts, to have a place of expression and discovery, of life and laughter when they are young, and their whole lives will be blessed by this.