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An Erie Playhouse Youtheatre show: From the perspective of a double major in theater and education

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An Erie Playhouse Youtheatre show: From the perspective of a double major in theater and education

So this is my background…

I have had a love for the theatre ever since I was little. From elementary to my junior year of high school, I was involved in a theatre group for children known as Saltworks. Every summer they had a theatre camp and would put on two shows a year. In late elementary and middle school, I acted in as many shows as possible. My time at the theatre camps and productions there are some of my favorite memories. Once I reached high school, I did not act in their shows as much because I started to do shows with my school. One of the shows I missed because I just had to do my high school spring musical was “Honk!”

Fast forward to college. I am now double majoring in theatre and education because I enjoyed the theatre companies for children so much that I never wanted to leave them. Just to make things clear, theatre and education are both separate majors. I would learn about how to teach effective lessons to children in my education courses and how to act and design sets and stuff in my theatre classes. In my Voice and Diction class, my professor Fr. Shawn Clerkin happened to be in a Youtheatre show for the Erie Playhouse. That show happened to be the same musical I was unable to do at Saltworks, “Honk!” Because Fr. Shawn Clerkin had to be at a performance during class time, the entire Voice and Diction class was invited to come see him perform.

Most of the theatre and communications majors saw “Honk!” as just a kid’s show. Having growing up at theatre camps and planning to be one of the guys in charge of one, I had a totally different reaction to the show. I should also probably mention that “Honk!” is the story of “The Ugly Duckling.”

Seeing the show at the Playhouse

erie playhouse

The show began like every other playhouse show I saw. Fr. Shawn sang a solo portraying the father duck with a thick Scottish accent. Within a few minutes, the kids entered the stage as duckings, a turkey, and several other farm animals. Then I remembered that one of my friends played the turkey in “Honk!” I was almost in tears. I really started to miss all of my friends from theatre camp.

Once the ugly duckling’s egg hatched, all of the other ducklings started to pick on him triggering all sorts of memories for me. I remembered that in Voice and Diction, Fr. Shawn mentioned  how “Honk!” is really about every kid that has ever been picked on. For the rest of the show I kept thinking that this was the story of my life. It suddenly hit me. My past, my present, and my future were all staring at me in the face throughout the entire show. My past of being the ugly duckling and being part of a theatre group for kids filled the stage. While I was presently sitting in a theatre watching a musical I realized that I was going to be directing family friendly musicals with theatre groups for children for the rest of my life. In fact, there is a pretty great chance that someday I am going to end up directing the musical I was just watching.

I thought to myself that this would be a great show to be part of as a middle school student. In one of my previous theatre classes, we discussed theatre as a form of therapy. Watching that show made me realize that being different than everyone else is never a bad thing. Middle school is that time when everyone feels incredibly awkward and like there is something completely wrong with them, and if I ever direct a play with a cast mostly made up of middle schoolers, I now know what show to direct. I wish I could have been part of a show with themes about everyone who has ever been picked on when I was in middle school.

One thing I like about being a double major in theatre and education at Gannon is that I have the opportunity to see what I will probably end up doing for the rest of my life in the future. There are plenty of theaters close by where I can see a variety of productions, and I get to work with children in a classroom in my field placements. With “Honk!”, I got to see a production of a theatre group for children, and I am perfectly content with directing these productions for the rest of my life. I asked Fr. Shawn Clerkin about his experience working with children in “Honk!” He said, “I think it is amazing how 10-12-year-olds have things in common with college students. They look for affirmation in others while still being incredibly talented while performing. It was similar to working with people at The Schuster Theatre and the Erie Playhouse mainstage shows.”

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