Confidence, Acceptance, Family, & Giving
Written by Jenny deViere, CFRT Board Member
I was 8 years old when I first auditioned to be a part of what was then the Fayetteville Little Theatre’s Student Performance Workshop. I stood on this little black platform and I sang a song I had learned in a church play. I don’t remember feeling scared or nervous – I just knew I wanted to be a part of this talented group of 20+ children who got to perform for other students. My mother, on the other hand, was a bag of nerves, never really understanding what drove me to want to stand up in front of so many people and perform.
I sang my heart out and won the approval of Bo Thorp, CFRT’s founding Artistic Director, who may as well have been the female version of Oscar Hammerstein in my 8 year old eyes. She was beautiful and sassy and never paid a compliment unless a compliment was truly due.
This moment, standing on the small black platform, would forever change my life because this moment introduced me to a life in theatre – a life uniquely its own; a life that taught me so many incredible skills including not only the obvious such as public speaking, dancing, acting, and singing, but kindness, acceptance and encouragement as well.
These days I see that our theatre often serves as just “another after school activity” for children to participate in. But, I hope if my story does nothing else, it will encourage parents to see that being a part of Cape Fear Regional Theatre means so much more.
No one has ever referred to me as “shy,” I can assure you. In fact, I think it’s pretty safe to say I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from shy. I attribute much of my gregariousness to what I learned in the theatre. For the first 18 years of my life, I spent a good amount of time on the CFRT and Fort Bragg Playhouse stages. Between the instruction of Bo Thorp and Lee Yopp, I learned a lot. Theatre not only gives a child lessons in music, acting and dancing, but it teaches children to speak with a purpose, to add inflexion when telling someone else’s story, and to have confidence in their actions. To a small child, Lee Yopp was a scary man but we could still recognize his brilliance. And while Bo Thorp is still known for her late into the night rehearsals, she always managed to create magic on opening night. Because of talented directors like these, children who grown up in our theatre learn to have confidence standing in front of a crowd, to be heard clearly, and to speak their thoughts with conviction.
These days, I often find parents afraid to introduce children to anything “foreign.” But in theatre, we welcome the foreign. We welcome people who thrive on creativity, who think out of the box, and who bring varying perspectives and life experiences to the stage. Theatre teaches us to appreciate and accept those different than us.
For me, my moment was when I was 10 years old and I first learned about homosexuality. I was playing a child in the musical Big River and I was completely in awe of the actor playing Jim (the “runaway” slave). He was giant in the eyes of a 10 year old child and his voice was even larger. The notes that rang from his mouth every night on stage were incredible – “Look out for me. Old muddy water. Your mysteries are deep and wide…” I can still hear him sing today as I write this. I thought he was the greatest thing ever. One evening, my dad explained to me that the actor playing Jim was gay and what “gay” meant. To this 10 year old, it was the best way to explain “gay” because it was about a human being I was close to, in awe of, and who had become a part of my theatre family. This man was strong, talented, kind and gracious and I could have cared less about his sexuality. His name was Lawrence Hamilton.
There is no greater heart than the heart that beats within our theatre family. Perhaps it’s because we are all such sensitive, creative minds or perhaps it’s that we spend months rehearsing and performing together through all hours of the night. I have met so many wonderful friends and people because of our theatre and I have learned something from each and every one of them. Through my theatre experiences I have learned to accept both success and defeat with grace. I have learned that no matter how bad you may want a role, you don’t always get it. I have learned that there is always someone better and more talented than you. And, I have learned that wonderful people come in all different shapes and sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds. But, the one thing we have in common is that we all gather on our stage with one common purpose – to tell a story and to tell it well. Now, thanks in part to Facebook, I have CFRT friend all over the country that are there to support and encourage me in all stages of my life. There is no family like a theatre family.
Cape Fear Regional Theatre has given me so much throughout my life. I really believe the people I have met and the experiences I have shared have made me the person I am today. In this life, it’s easy to get swept up in your own little bubble. It’s easy to live around people who are just like you; it’s easy to be friends with people who are just like you; and it’s easy to get involved in activities that don’t evoke emotion or allow for vulnerability. I encourage you to pop that bubble and experience people who are NOT just like you and may experience things differently! I promise you, theatre can provide this opportunity. Theatre has the ability to create magical and memorable experiences for not just the audience, but its actors as well.
“Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes, Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand moments so dear. Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?” I urge you this holiday season to consider this special gem we have atop Haymount Hill in your holiday giving. With your help, CFRT will be able to continue to impact the lives of so many more children and families. God Bless!
CFRT introduces thousands of children and families to the magic of theatre – building confidence, teaching acceptance, and creating “theatre-family bonds” – each year. But, we can’t do it without our wonderful and generous supporters! Please consider donating to 25 Days of Giving today to CFRT raise $25,000 for youth education and outreach programs. Thank you!