"Would you like to help us choreograph the rest of this year's musical at GHS?"
The call came from Kevin Buno, choir teacher extraordinaire plus this year's director of Guilford High School Theatre Art's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee".
"Of course! I would be so honored!" I responded energetically.
Pulling up to my high school alma mater that first day of rehearsal was nerve racking to say the least. I wasn't sure if I had had enough time away from the dilapidated halls of those high school years. But, when I stepped into that auditorium (still run-down and dreary) I knew I was home.
At Middlebury, my Education Studies minor focused in grades K-6, the main reason being that the thought of working with high schoolers scared me. Why? Not completely sure. All I knew was I didn't want to venture back into those surprisingly emotion ridden days. And yet here I was, looking out at the scratchy-blue folding seats of the high school auditorium, placing myself at the front-line, unknowing of what I had agreed to.
It took me a while to understand how to relate to high schoolers. These kids weren't the second graders I taught at Middlebury. They weren't the college and graduate students at CLOC. And they weren't the equity actors at Ivoryton. I was learning on the go while pushing for and expecting greatness, knowing GHSTA could only produce that.
I ruffled feathers because I'm a hard-ass. The students pushed my boundaries and I in turn pushed theirs, balancing out to a stupendous working relationship that surfaced endless amounts of respect and laughter from both sides of the coin.
I remember sitting in my Guidance Counselor's office my sophomore year at GHS. Ms. Scaccia turned to me in the middle of our talk (it was probably a Thursday and I most likely had already been in two times earlier that week) and said to me, "Schuyler, you're ready for college, aren't you?"
I was. I couldn't wait to get out of GHS. I had friends, but I felt like the majority of them failed to extend past the final bell. Theatre was there, but I still felt like something in my friendships was missing, that individuals didn't care enough about me to want to get together outside of school. Everyone was going to parties, getting togethers, seeing movies, and I was rarely invited.
As I left our absolutely joyous, riveting, and hilarious opening last night, I realized that it wasn't anything my high school friends were doing (or rather, what they weren't doing) to make me feel so alone: it was me. I could only imagine how difficult and annoying it was to hang out with closeted Schuyler; oof, that sounds like torture. Now looking back, all I can say is it was what it was. All those high school days of worry and frustration didn't have anything to do with my peers; it was all me when you boil it down.
Now, how you get to this kind of realization by choreographing a high school production of "...Spelling Bee" I'm not entirely sure. But I do know that these students' love, support, and willingness to learn AND be themselves was by far the dominant factor. I am so grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to heading back to GHSTA in upcoming months, giving back any way I can to a program that shaped who I am today as not only a performer, but a person as well.
I encourage all my high school friends to take a trip back to the fold. Who knows what you'll discover...