Do We Theater Students Even Exist?

Margaret Schedler

Margaret Schedler

Monday, November 15, 2021
Do We Theater Students Even Exist?

The finished product. Photos by Sean Flynt.

Theater has been a crucial part of The Altamont School since its establishment in 1975. Theater was a rich aspect of Altamont’s community. Over the years, the desire to be a theater student has never diminished, only the support from the student body and administration has dwindled. That seems to stem from a lack of knowledge about what we theater students face. So, here's a look into what our year has looked like so far:

After the scarring embrace of Covid-19 relinquished its grip on Altamont, the theater was able to open its wings once again. With the addition of Altamont’s new theater teacher, Reid Watson, the opportunities seemed infinite. And they were … well, sort of. 

Rehearsals for FAME Jr., the fall production, started at the beginning of October. It quickly
became clear to those involved that, as with many theater productions, participating would mean signing our lives away in order to continue. Rehearsals were unforgiving. We spent three to five hours every day rehearsing. Weekend practices would usually take the whole day, leaving us all sore and exhausted, without any time to recover for the next school week. The stress and mental fatigue that all the cast and crew members (and the director!) went through was ruthless. During one of our rehearsals, I had an episode of extreme light-headednes due to mental fatigue. Some of my castmates had to help me down the stage stairs and lay me on the floor of the CKC. Teachers were still assigning the usual piles of homework every night and tests and quizzes every week. As a burned-out junior juggling mental health, school, and theater, it put me in a really dark place where all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep. Thankfully, after talking to my teachers about my episode, they were slightly more forgiving to theater students.

The first round of the Walter Trumbauer High School Theatre Festival competition was on November 6 in Alabaster. Our call time was 7:30 a.m., meaning we all had to wake up at around 5:00 a.m. The competition's rules and regulations are crazy strict. Our cast and crew spent a week straight practicing how we could effectively cram our set and props into a 10x10 duct-taped box. I can’t accurately explain how difficult the process of preparation was. I had to start applying makeup to my bruises (the result of moving heavy, awkward sets in the dark) because I had to wear ballet tights for my costume, and the bruises were so dark that they would show through.

And we couldn't change our appearance, so we had to get permission if we wanted to cut our hair or style it in a new way. Our dancing was so intense that we had to stretch constantly. By the end, I could do splits, and this is coming from a person who couldn't even touch their toes a few months before.

But we eventually made it through! We advanced to the state-level Trumbauer competition, which will be at Troy University on December 3. 

Fame Bows.jpg

The two weeks before Trumbauer were the "tech week(s)," or “hell-weeks” as some of us affectionately call them. We all emailed our teachers asking for support with assignments and tests so that we could get through the week without failing a class (spoiler alert: my grade in math still dropped to a 71). When (some) teachers announced that they were going to give us extensions on tests until after tech week, allowing us time to actually study, non-theater students protested openly in class, claiming that it “wasn’t fair.” The time that was given to us does not equate to theater kids getting twice the amount of time that non-theater kids get to study. It’s more like half the amount, because we didn’t have time to study in the first place.

Non-theater students have also invalidated the amount of stress that the cast and
crew have felt these past few months. Some student-athletes compare their practice schedules to that of theater students. This isn’t the stress Olympics! Altamont students should have enough respect for one another to understand that all students deal with a certain amount of stress. If you think that giving the theater students time to actually get assignments done is “unfair," just because you have outside commitments too, maybe you need to be asking for extensions on your assignments instead of taking them away from other people.

It is hurtful when other students try to claim that we don’t work as hard or suffer as much just because they don’t care enough to watch our shows or notice what we go through to put on a production.

The audiences at our performances were mostly Altamont faculty and families. Some students did come and that should not be ignored, but the numbers were not even close to the amount that usually go to basketball games. Performing is scary, especially in front of an audience of strangers when you have to sing and be vulnerable. We needed familiar faces and peers to support us. Why couldn't spirit club come and show others that Altamont spirit also includes supporting the arts? For those who did go and support us, the entire cast and crew thanks you!

Fame cast selfie.jpg

We are "going to state." We have won 24 awards just this year. We contribute just as much to Altamont as student-athletes do. Therefore, we deserve the same respect and support that the student body gives to athletics. The arts deserve more appreciation at Altamont. So, instead of comparing stress levels and extra-curriculars, can students just try to support one another? Come to our shows like we go to your games. Give theater the respect that it deserves.

The purpose of this piece isn’t to target or attack, but instead to share concerns and frustrations raised by theater students at The Altamont School. Together we can strengthen the culture of respect within the Altamont community, so that all students feel like they are of value to the school.

In conclusion: "We work harder than anyone. Sweat more. Hurt more. Get paid less." -- FAME Jr.

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