Inside a little white church, on an improvised stage, you peek through the curtains to see the audience anticipating the spectacle to come. The pianist's hands press down on the keys as you and your fellow actors come out from the wings. The show begins.
Located at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston, VSI Teen Theatre is one of many organizations across Boston that allows teens to not only act, but participate in the behind-the-scenes magic that brings a performance to life. Theatres such as these are where budding actors start on the long road to stardom.
Plenty of young people dream of walking down the red carpet as the DiCaprio and Jolie types applaud. However, even if your dreams are less performance-focused, theatre is still uniquely beneficial. For example, it’s an excellent way to develop social skills. Having participated in theater since I was 6, I’ve enhanced my public speaking skills and forged relationships with some of the most important people in my life. But do not just take it from me—take it from your peers who have found their calling on the stage.
Antoine Gray Jr., a sophomore at Boston Arts Academy, began performing as a way to do something productive with all his Red-Bull-esque levels of energy. Acting has helped him break out of his self-proclaimed “bubble of crippling social awkwardness.”
“As someone who has hated being themself at times, having the opportunity to step into someone else's shoes for a little while and live someone else's truth is really amazing,” said Gray. Performing is not something Gray does for acclaim; rather, it is a passion for entertaining others that drives him to bring a smile to the audience. “If I make can make one person in the crowd smile— even if I completely blew it—if I make someone smile, then mission accomplished,” he said.
“Well, it [theatre] has definitely been good for my ego,” joked local actor and expert breakdancer Kenny St. Fleur, also a students at BAA. Prior to joining an ensemble, St. Fleur was mostly a solo act on and off stage. If you were to meet St. Fleur, you would not believe it, but he was introverted for much of his childhood. But in 2016, Kenny got his first big role, playing William Barfee in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” While doing his self-choreographed “Magic Foot” dance, St. Fleur earned a roar of applause as the audience fell for the former outcast. “I really love the craft and having everyone come together and seeing that end product,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
Over the course of putting together a show, the cast becomes like a family. For her cast, actress and production manager Marion Downey is the glue that keeps the family on the track to success. Downey spends many nights at production meetings, getting into the nitty-gritty details of show magic, and spends her days reciting lines and rehearsing scenes.
After several starring roles, including Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors” and Adolfo Pirelli in “Sweeney Todd,” Downey shines backstage, taking up a number of technical roles. As production manager, she sets up and inspects the rehearsal space, oversees the creation of costumes and props, and communicates messages between the director and cast. Her responsibilities are teaching her the discipline and leadership skills she needs to be successful in her future career.
Theater is more than performing, more than putting on silly outfits, saying silly words, and dancing around a stage. It is exposing yourself to something new. It is developing skills that will last a lifetime. It is meeting new people and forging new relationships. It is overcoming your challenges and making the world your stage. Because in the end, all the world's a stage anyway—isn’t it time you find your role?