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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

View From The Top: Dr. Strangedance, or how I sold my soul to the theater

Published: March 30, 2012
Section: Features

I never meant to be one of those “theater kids.” You know the ones I’m talking about; they sing musicals as they walk around campus, wear brightly colored hoodies advertising their shows and send you three dozen Facebook invitations to come see them perform. I never intended to do theater at Brandeis. As I walked around the activities fair my first year, I intended to spend my non-academic time dancing with Adagio Dance Company and hopefully singing with one of the numerous a cappella groups. My a cappella dreams never came to fruition, so I threw myself into Brandeis’ dance world.

By the end of my first semester I found myself in an original dance show called “Philosophical Love.” As an ensemble dancer in a show about homosexual men in China, I had no clue that I was dipping my toe into the pool of theater. Not long after the project was done, my director asked me to join the coming production of “Company” as an assistant choreographer, and I joined my first production staff, the team of students who do all the behind-the-scenes work and make the show happen. After “Company” I was asked to choreograph for Hillel Theater Group’s production of “Children of Eden,” and since then I’ve been hooked.

Junior year I choreographed “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and this year I co-choreographed “Footloose.” I costume designed the play “The Last Night of Ballyhoo”; acted in BET’s “Quickies” and “The Vagina Monologues”; and created my own original dance-theater production called “Pandora’s Box,” which will be performed in May. I’ve learned my way around carpentry and power tools in order to build sets, and I’m not stopping.

Basically, I’ve sold my soul to the theater. I’ve given myself up to it. For theater I will eat 10 bagels and seven Caesar salads in one week. For theater I will skip dinner. For theater I will skip class. For theater I will stay up past three a.m. for a week straight. For theater I will endure. For theater I will live.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a little known fact, but I used to be terribly shy. The thought of speaking to strangers made me want to curl up into a little ball and cry. But everything changed when my parents enrolled me in an after-school theater program. I could talk to people, strange people I’d never met before because I wasn’t myself. I was acting! It wasn’t long before I could talk to people as me. I still didn’t talk to random people in the supermarket or want to sit on the mall Santa’s lap (because that is just creepy), but I didn’t want to run either.

Theater taught me to interact with the world, so I guess it’s not so weird that I’ve made it my world here at Brandeis. In my opinion, college is about learning to be yourself. As we grow up, we change, but when we’re in the same place for too long, we can get stuck in people’s preconceived notions. We pretend to be who we once were. When I came to Brandeis, I got to leave a lot behind, but it was when I got involved in theater that I really got to be myself. I get to be serious as a peer leader but I also get to be crazy once I hit my witching hour. I can choreograph a delicate moment and I can take a sledgehammer to a set piece. I can laugh and cry and scream and smile but, whatever I do and whoever I am, I am safe. I am loved. I am me.

So I suppose I didn’t really sell my soul to the theater. I went willingly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I graduate from Brandeis this spring, I will miss a lot of things, but mostly I will miss my family in the theater. It has been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Or the return of my soul.