‘I am of the sincerest belief that not only as artists, but certainly as Christians, we have no right to shut out anyone in this world, which includes their personal beliefs and how they express them. I believe that my life and future career as a storyteller will require me to find God where sometimes we believe He is absent. Certain topics and language may be difficult for some; however, this does not give us the right to push it from our sight merely because ‘we see it as ugly’. Sometimes, the Truth is ugly; sometimes, the Truth hurts; and sometimes, the Truth lies in how we express it.’
This is an excerpt from a letter that I wrote recently defending why I am writing a show that has strong language and why I refused to edit it out. I am of the belief that if I had not come to theatre school in Rosebud, I may not have formed this opinion, and many others, about what it is to be an artist. My time in Rosebud has been one of profound growth and introspection, both on and off the stage. In our first year here in Rosebud, we take a class called ‘Christianity and the Arts’. In all that we learned in that four-month course, the strongest lesson for me was learning who I am as a person of faith, and as an artist – and how the two coincide.
Over the past four years, I have learned that faith is not a straight line, and neither is art. What we believe God wants may in fact be what we want, and sometimes what God wants is so scary that we turn away in fear, not trusting Him or ourselves to make the leap. It is the same in art as it is in life: we must tell the story that needs to be told, not the one we want to tell. Sometimes, if we are lucky, they may be the same thing, but often they are not.
I think many people have a common misconception about actors (and perhaps artists in general) in that all we do is get on stage, say some lines with fun costumes on, and then go home and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. However, here in Rosebud, we are challenged not to shy away from what theatre really is: It is looking at the human condition, every aspect of it, and telling that story without judgement or prejudice, but with empathy and an open heart. The instructors and resident artists here take their calling very seriously, and as such, they expect the students here to do the same.
Many different people have asked me why I have chosen this life in theatre. My answer varies, because there are many: I love telling stories, love making people laugh, cry, question, etc. through the stories I help tell. I love the sense of community that I feel with my fellow actors and technicians that I work with on a show. I love finding connection with a room full of strangers, and the thrill that I may leave an imprint on them even after they leave the theatre. I love that even with the same blocking, script, and actors, no two shows that I do are ever the same. I love the silence that happens when the lights go down at the end of the show; people sit silently and breathe in what they have just witnessed. It is a silence that is full of God.
How I view my future in theatre is how I view my future in life: I don’t know what lies ahead. I have faith that it will be okay, but I do not know. It’s terrifying enough knowing that I will be auditioning for the rest of my natural life. If you think a regular job interview every few years is stressful enough, just remember that I get to have one every few months! My career choice is met with staggering challenges: instability, financial hardships, constant pressure to make ‘good art’, and being one of hundreds of thousands of acting students who are graduating this year. These are just some of the things that plague my heart and mind about this career choice. Yet I must quote my Christianity and the Arts textbook: “If God has called you, the journey shall not be in vain.” I know what it is to be someone who loves God; I know what it is to be an actor. However, my life here in Rosebud has taught me how to be both.
Rosebud is a picturesque river valley located 90 minutes northeast of Calgary and home to Rosebud School of the Arts, Rosebud Theatre, and the historic Rosebud Mercantile. For more information on the school or theatre productions, call 1-800-267-7553 or visit www.rosebudschoolofthearts.com or www.rosebudtheatre.com.
Watch a video about Rosebud School of the Arts: “Our Rosebud Experience”: