Oct 02, 2017

Find Your Voice Through Extracurricular Activities

By Lori Draz and Michael Guarino

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories to educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Michael Guarino, a 17-year-old senior at Christian Brothers Academy. High school offers many extracurricular activities where students can find their inner voice. Classrooms are mandatory and random, but in the many groups, clubs, and teams, students find new friends who share their personal passions. These activities are deeply enriching to the overall high school experience and often teach some of the most important character-building qualities, along with making memories and friendships that endure long after graduation. Like many students, Michael Guarino looked for his place to shine and he found it in student theater. There, he learned a lot more than his lines; he learned critical lessons about teamwork, support, respect, and admiration. He found a place where he can be the best “him” he can be and encourages everyone to seek out an activity that allows you to shine. Here is Michael’s story.

In September of my freshman year at CBA, I knew I wanted to participate in an extracurricular activity to allow my high school experience to become something more than a daily routine of classes and homework. Having performed in a number of musicals in elementary school, I auditioned for “The Nerd,” the 2014 fall play, with no knowledge of what I was in for. Little did I know that Pegasus Production Company, this handful of CBA boys and female students from surrounding schools, would become the highlight of my high school career.

Because I was a non-performing understudy in “The Nerd,” I worked behind the scenes and gained hands-on exposure to the world of high school theatre. Every member of this student-run theatre company displayed a level of professionalism that I aimed to model. Though always professional, the thespians were equally committed to making the show an enjoyable experience for everyone involved, proving that work and fun can co-exist. By adapting to this mindset, I easily fit in with my peers at Pegasus and made unbreakable friendships that I am certain will last beyond high school. Since “The Nerd,” I have performed in five other shows with Pegasus Production Company and two musicals with Trinity Hall’s Queen’s Court Company. Acting and serving on Pegasus’s board of student directors has taught me invaluable leadership skills and experiences that are the kind of major life lessons that cannot be taught in a high school classroom.

If my time in CBA’s Henderson Theater has taught me anything, it is that time is of the essence and must not be wasted. Work on a production can begin as early as six months ahead of the production dates. The directors and the CBA administration begin brainstorming on a selected show as soon as possible. While it takes at least two months to put together a straight play and three for a musical, there is simply no such thing as too much planning and rehearsal within that time. Dedicated Pegasus students, under the supervision of experienced theatre professionals, hold creative and logistical meetings over summer break for shows that won’t open until November or March, and the weeks immediately before a production are jam-packed with actors and crew members rehearsing for hours after every school day and on weekends.

Even with efficient use of ample time, a show cannot come to life without the work and dedication of the 70+ students that comprise the company. The Henderson Theater productions are a collaborative effort by student actors, designers, and managers. Without my friends from each area of the production team, it is impossible to put on a show. Some students focus on a single aspect of a production, and others serve the company in multiple capacities such as student directors, set designers who are also hair and makeup artists, and tech directors who are also construction overseers. Working with these incredibly talented individuals has given me a greater appreciation for the role teamwork plays in accomplishing a goal and a greater understanding of collaboration in the artistic process and in life. The advice and support that members of the cast and crew provide one another sustain the company and allow us to reach new heights every year as an organization committed to quality theatre and as a second family of dedicated thespians. By learning to be open and practice patience to bring a production to life and by making the most of my time, I have become a better actor, student, and leader. I have learned how to balance homework, extracurricular activities, and other personal responsibilities.

The most significant lesson I have learned from this theatre group, however, is that it is critical to find one’s true self and aspire to become the best person one can be. High school is filled with activities and each is a place where like-minded students can meet, make friends, and grow together by working together. I have realized firsthand that it is important to make the most of my high school experience by doing what makes me happy. Doing that has created an endless number of possibilities for personal growth. As I enter my senior year, I strive to be a role model for underclassmen trying to make the most of the opportunities presented to them in high school. Although the drama department might not be everyone’s niche, it has provided me with countless life-changing experiences that have shaped my character and my outlook on life, and I believe it has something to teach all of us. Do try, join a group you’re drawn to, and see where it can take you.