Emma Sullivan is the Assistant Stage Manager for the summer Education productions of The Wizard of Oz and Les Miserables.
We devote a large portion of rehearsal time during the Teen Acting Conservatory to audition preparation. Actors spend several hours per week practicing and curating their book of songs and monologues to present to a mock audition panel. Though I am not a performer, it serves as a time for reflection as I look back on my three years and counting at Gulfshore Playhouse and how working for this company has prepared me for my future.
Today, as I sat down to write my first draft of my college application essay, the prompt options blinked back at me: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others….Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. No matter which I chose, the story began at Gulfshore Playhouse. This theatre created the first community of artists I was ever a part of: ten female student playwrights who met once a month in the administrative office to discuss our ten-minute plays. The STARwrights program catalyzed my experience in education and the arts– I now run a middle school creative writing program and a high school literary magazine, neither of which I believe would be possible if I hadn’t been exposed to the work of other young people.
In more ways than one, my resume also begins with Gulfshore Playhouse. It was my first volunteer opportunity, and the summer education staff in 2017 helped me craft my resume and provided me with letters of recommendation that gave me my first job. I started as a Starbucks barista soon after my first summer at Gulfshore Playhouse, where I coincidentally encountered fellow Starbucks partners Katie Cross and Kayleigh Campo, both actresses in Gulfshore Playhouse’s touring company of In Flight. (Kayleigh and I performed together with Children for the Arts almost ten years ago, which is a hard sentence to read.)
The advice and wisdom I have received from the staff at Gulfshore Playhouse has carried me through my entire high school career, and every summer that I return to the Norris Center, I feel as excited as our students onstage about the new lessons I will encounter. I learn theatre history, Fosse choreography, how to build a barricade, and, our most important subject, “How to be a better human” which we ensure is the heart of our teaching.
The most rewarding opportunity of the 2019 summer has been working alongside our amazing volunteers, Olivia Petersen, Lyndi Floyd, Angela Keon, and Emma Upson, all of whom are starring in our upcoming run of Les Miserables. They, too, started as Gulfshore Playhouse’s students and grew into the roles of volunteers. They became experts in a matter of three weeks at tracking of props, managing quick changes, and maneuvering twenty 6 to 8-year-olds through our backstage area. I hope they feel the same way I do, that learning from and volunteering for Gulfshore Playhouse opened up amazing doors both in theatre and in the larger world.