Amplify Austin is just a few weeks away (less than three, to be exact), and this year, every dollar donated to the Long Center will go directly to the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards. We could tell you that until we’re blue in the face (and we probably will), but we asked high school senior and GAHSMTA participant Shea Washburn to write about how the awards ceremony has affected her life. Trust us- it’s worth the read.
I have always tried to immerse myself in theater. The theatrical environment is one in which I thrive – the people around me always make me feel welcome, and the skills I learn give me a sense of purpose. As a kid, I loved theatre. As a girl transitioning into young adulthood, I loved theatre. When I moved halfway across the country from Seattle to Austin, I not only loved theatre, but I needed it. I needed that spark, that sense of belonging that one only gets as a part of theatre. This feeling of belonging has never been more evident than in the community of the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards. In this community I found exactly what I needed at the time – a home.
The first year I participated in GAHSMTA was my sophomore year of high school. I participated somewhat indirectly, performing in my school’s musical, and later attending the ceremony. Although I did not participate in the ceremony itself, I felt absolutely delighted attending. Watching hundreds of other kids like me come together to put on this extravagant event and pouring their heart and soul into each number and award was truly touching. It reminded me of the love I held for theater and the passion I felt in my heart for my craft.
The following year, I had the privilege of being nominated for for Best Supporting Actress and (with my school) Best Production, giving me the opportunity to participate in the ceremony in a more hands-on way. In rehearsals for the ceremony, I got to meet so many amazing students like me and, more importantly, so many instructors who truly cared for all of us and the work that they did to put on this amazing ceremony. Ginger Morris, the Director of Education and Outreach at the Long Center, was one of them. Watching Ginger direct these rehearsals and manage to handle and help all of these kids was extraordinary. Not only did she strive to make a great show, but she also managed to make each and every one of us feel special. Like we belonged right there on that stage. That is, after all, why many of the kids were there – not to create a career in theatre or to learn how to dance, but to express themselves and find that special place where they truly felt welcomed.
This year, 2016, I have the privilege of being a part of GAHSMTA’s Select Ensemble, a place where passionate high schoolers work together and perform not only a series of numbers during the GAHSMTA ceremony, but also at galas, fundraisers, and other ceremonies, where we truly are treated like young professionals. As I venture off into a career in theatre, I know that it is the right choice for me. I know this because of how I feel during every Select Ensemble rehearsal, how I feel when I laugh with my peers, and how I feel when I get a dance step just right. This program has not only taught me how to perform, but also to love performing. It has not only taught me to work hard in rehearsal, but also to work hard outside of my work in theater. It has not only taught me to respect my directors and peers, but also to respect everyone around me, no matter what walk of life they come from.
I can only hope that all of the kids who are a part of GAHSMTA for years to come have such a life changing experience. I am confident that through the instruction of the many teachers and directors they will encounter, they will learn many valuable lessons and find that special place I keep mentioning. Through GAHSMTA, I am certain that they will find a place where they feel loved and supported and appreciated. Like it was for me, I am certain that GAHSMTA will be a place where they belong.