Theatre has been my life ever since I can remember. As a three-year-old kid, I took every opportunity to be in front of an audience. I would sing in front of my family at every Hanukkah party or have my Mom tape my original Barbie productions. I was fortunate enough to have found a theatre organization when I was very young that helped shape me into the actor and person that I am today. “Yes! And… Collaborative Arts” is a not-for-profit theatre company based in Philadelphia. “Yes! And…” embodies the ideals behind the popular improv game with the same title where one is not allowed to say “no” and can only say “yes” and add on to the idea that is presented. This is what theatre has to offer: say yes to the unknown, to the difficult, to the joy of creating, to working towards a common goal, to leaning on and learning from others, to expressing yourself and to finding who you are.
It was here, at “Yes! And…” that I found my voice. Here that I was accepted as an eccentric, energetic, loud, creative, and talented person. Here that I was listened to, loved, and valued as someone who had something important to offer. Here that I first felt the satisfaction of working together with a group of people to create something beautiful and important that moved an audience. This is where I found my family and in the theatre is where I continue to find family over and over again. With each new cast, each new production, I am bound again and again to the people I work and create with. It is a collaborative art by nature and this sense of community and commonality is something completely unique to the theatre.
I am not like many other people my age; I have known what I wanted to do since the day I began working with “Yes! And…”. When I was 9-years-old and the directors gave me my first lead role, I didn’t believe them that I could do it. I was anxious and didn’t understand how to utilize my massic creative energy. My teachers and mentors showed me how to ground my energy and focus it. They taught me how to mold a character by reaching inward and asking questions, how to listen to others and try everything and anything, and how to stand on stage and open myself up to an audience and be accepted. Through trust and love, I was able to find the thing that drives me every single day. That first performance I left my parents with jaws dropped. It was clear I was finally where I was supposed to be.
Theatre has been so important to me throughout my whole life; it has been my lifeline and my purpose. It is through the power of theatre that organizations like “Yes! And…” help kids see their potential and their value and learn important life skills like cultivating a collaborative community through something incredibly positive: art. When we teach children the power of saying “yes” to the theatre and all that it has to offer, it changes their lives - just as it did mine.