Life Goes On
Life goes on when the show closes: The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a teenager. It resists neat narrative arcs, and though we try to impose end points—graduation, breakups, New Year’s Eve—we wake up the next morning to a difficult question: What now?
Luckily, there’s an upshot to this lack of endings: Finished does not equal lost.
The summer after I graduated high school I had the pleasure of joining the Chicago Youth Shakespeare Summer Ensemble. That pleasure included such various and sundry delights as meeting other kids my own age who shared my passion for plays written hundreds of years ago; an eye-opening education on how and why those plays endure; rigorous work with three major acting styles; all led by people who cared deeply about their craft, saw potential in us, and helped us to see it in ourselves.
And then it was over.
Leaving behind the friendships and joy I found at CYS saddened me, but when I moved out to New Jersey to begin my secondary education adventure at Rutgers University and got on with my “What now?” I had an easier time answering that question because of what I had learned that summer.
I knew I could make friends without knowing anybody because I’d done it over the summer. I knew I could work hard and have fun at the same time because I’d done it over the summer. I knew I had the capacity to understand and interpret difficult problems because I’d done it over the summer.
Most importantly, I had faith in myself, my ideas and my vision. Everything CYS teaches and preaches reinforces the self-confidence of the ensemble members as artists, members of society, and fully-realized human beings. CYS believes that Shakespeare “plays” well with teenagers, but more importantly they believe that teenagers have something to contribute to Shakespeare. The artistic director, Manon Spadaro, strove to create personal relationships with me and the other ensemble members, constantly re-enforcing how much she--and whole organization—valued us as individuals. During the creative process Jeremy Ohringer, our director, honored our creative input and encouraged us to explore our artistic impulses. The atmosphere of respect, support, and challenge reinforced explicitly and implicitly our worth as performers.
CYS closed the gap between a teenager and a genius. So when my life moved on—when I moved states to a school where I knew no one, when rejections hammered down from student shows and programs alike, and when winter hit and I hadn’t accomplished any of my goals for the fall—I not only had creative tools and a support network, I had faith in myself.
The maddened Ophelia opines, “We know what we are but we know not what we may be,” But at CYS I learned that we don’t need to know what we will be, where we will go, what we will accomplish. Don’t worry about your “What now?” until “Now” arrives. When the show closes, life goes on all by itself. Knowing--believing in--what we are, what we know, and what we have to say, is enough.
Celine Dirkes is a CYS Summer Youth Ensemble alum. She played Jaques in the 2014 production of “As You Like It”. Currently, she studies Theatre, English, and Creative Writing at Rutgers University, and is a student blogger for Rutgers Admissions.