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What It’s Like To Do Theatre In A Rural Community

I would hope this is not a story that has been particularly overdone, but in case it is, I apologize.

My name is Reagan Drury, and I have spent the last 5 years of my life living in a town of about 900 people in rural Missouri. I know, I know, that sounds like a hick town, and all ingenues come from somewhere like Ohio or Iowa, right?

You will be right about that if I make it in the theatre world. Time will tell on that aspect. I have been doing theatre since I was in 4th grade, and I immediately fell in love with it. I have now graduated high school and am attending a private college in Minneapolis in the fall to study theatre.

But I’m not here to talk about me necessarily. I am here to be relatable to all the kids that want to do theatre but their school is too small, or sports overtake everything. Because, believe me, I’ve been there.

So, I’m going to tell you about how I got through it, and how you can too.

1. When Sports Are Everything

My school is a really big football school, and perhaps an even bigger basketball school. Not necessarily in size, but in focus. Our administration doesn’t put much effort into our arts programs… and this means that they fall by the wayside depending on when games are and whether the arts programs would take athletes away from their duties as part of the team.

I know you’re probably thinking, what about their commitment to the arts? We need them too, don’t we? Yes, but because we’re not competing, it must not matter. At least, not in the eyes of the authority figures at my school.

How I Got Through It: I threw myself into the arts programs. I gave them all I had. I tried my best to be passionate about them and show the teachers that give up their time and resources that I cared about their effort. And I took every opportunity that came my way. When they’re few and far between, what else are you gonna do?

2. There Are Never Any Shows

I’ve done 4 shows in the 5 years I’ve been at this school. And I know, a show a year isn’t bad. But we don’t run for a week. We run for a weekend. And the shows have to be chosen very carefully simply because not only is there a lack of interest from the male population at our school, there is a lack of interest in general. Our shows generally have to be small and only include 1 or 2 males. And musicals run few and far between. If we can’t get them to act, singing and dancing are also probably off the table.

How I Got Through It: Again, taking every opportunity. Was I disappointed at the lack of shows? Yes. Did I let it discourage me from giving my all in the few shows I had the privilege to do? No. I worked my way up to the lead in my senior show, in which I also assistant directed and choreographed. That’s what never giving up can get you. Even if no one could care less, you do. So, let your effort reflect how you feel about your passion.

3. Administration Support

As I stated before, when you don’t have the support from faculty, the arts suffer as a result. When the principal has never been to a show, but goes to every game there is, you’re bound to get a little discouraged. Now, I don’t want to be entirely negative. My superintendent was incredibly supportive of the arts and did everything in his power to keep up our motivation. And I know he will continue to do that in the coming years.

How I Got Through It: I focused on the people who did give their support. The people that encouraged and came to every show and concert. I let those people motivate me. And I reminded myself that there would be like minded people that enjoy theatre when I get out of such a small town. And you have to remember that no matter how fish out of water you feel, there will be people who get you.

I hope this gave you a little bit of insight into what theatre kids in small towns have to endure. And I hope if you are one of those theatre kids, you realize that it won’t like that forever. I promise.

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