I grew up on the outside of YAT. My younger sister had been in it for six years before I started at the first Experiment camp two summers ago. It was almost an accident I went to the Experiment at all. Theatre was not my thing, it was my sister's thing. That summer I only thought about the acting part of theatre, not anything else. The Experiment showed me that theatre is so much more than actors on a stage. Wednesday night, halfway through the Experiment, we were all in a huge circle in the basement after rehearsal. Justin told us to jump into the circle and say something the group did well that day. It soon progressed into something more personal-- each person’s sharing was ended with a giant group hug. I suddenly got the courage to say something. I told the group about how nervous I was to have come here and I said thank you for welcoming me and for accepting me into the great little family so quickly. When I was done I was immediately engulfed in a hug. I noticed I was crying, but I wasn’t sad. No, I was so happy. I’d found, as my dad calls it, my place. After everyone who had shared, we walked back the cabins chanting.
“Who are we?"
That night was the first time I really felt like a part of this crazy thing I’d watched my whole life.
At YAT, theatre is all art forms combined. Through the Experiment, I discovered where I fit in that combination. I started to fall in love with the stage management and directing side of theatre.
In my second session, I signed up to act. A little bit into the semester, though, I discovered that I wouldn't be able to perform on one of the show dates. I talked to my director and Justin and decided to become another assistant director so I could still be a part of the show. Through the semester I took endless notes, marking up scripts and suggesting moments for blocking, writing, and direction for the show. YAT builds plays from scratch, and helping to build that play along with the director and cast was in incredible experience. That’s when it really started to click.
After that, I learned of the REACT festival’s playwright contest.
Even though I thought the odds were stacked way against me, I had an idea for a show. I asked friend of mine, Jaytel, to help me write an Alice in Wonderland adaptation. We did. And we didn’t get in. A bummer, but still-- I had co-written my first play before I got my driver's license.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Jaytel. “Did you get the email from Janna?” he practically yelled into the phone.
I put Jaytel on speakerphone and checked my email. Lo and behold there was the email from YAT's Associate Artistic Director, asking if we were still interested in putting on our show for the REACT festival. I snapped my phone back to my ear and immediately started a production plan. That 15-minute phone call might have been the most excited I have ever been. The next month or so we had rehearsals every single day to get the show ready in time. We worked with our cast every minute we could, tweaking the script, the blocking, the direction. That month was so crazy and exciting and nerve-wracking-- and I loved every second.
That was the month I really fell in love hard core with directing. I learned a lot about it and still am learning today. Following the excitement of the REACT festival, Jaytel and I went on to create our own theatre company. Our second original production wrapped earlier this year. With our company and YAT combined, I am working on my ninth show in a little under two years. It has been a rollercoaster ride but I really wouldn’t go back.
Grace's journey started at The Experiment: Young Actors Theatre's week-long sleep-away camp. For the first year ever, we are offering our first Experiment for 4th-8th grade students as well as high schoolers. Find your awesome. Find more details.