No matter where I was, I loved being the center of everyone’s attention. I had no idea why. Seeing friends and family laugh as I made a joke or told a story was a feeling of fulfillment.
And, as a 12-year-old who constantly had energy, I could have been jumping up and down with the class hamster in my hand, singing for the world to hear the original song I had written about it, just so I could see others smile. Thankfully, my seventh-grade science teacher somehow took notice of my spirited personality before I got to dance with the classroom skeleton.
Despite her specialty in biology, she introduced me to the theater — not a thing that tickled my interest at first thought. Once my curiosity gained momentum, participating in theater soon became a pastime and passion. Through crucial years of awkward teenage confusion and religious obscurity, theater eventually adjusted my perspective of relationships to one closer to God’s will, dynamically affecting my view of my faith and my style of acting — on and off the stage.
Theater requires extensive amounts of labor; a single production demands for a plethora of people, from playwrights, designers (set, costumes, properties, etc.), crew members, technicians, advertisers and actors. Intensive dedication is poured into a show.
Stepping onstage into the exposition of light wipes away any uneasiness with exhilaration. Magically, my 12-year-old self fell in love. Acting onstage brought a feeling of fulfillment — that is, until the set was taken down and the audience went home. The attention dwindled, and I was left as empty. Unsatisfied. Discouragement never settled, as I passionately continued to participate in productions, progressively craving more attention. Moments of fulfillment cycled through, yet none remained permanent.
Our performances at school usually landed on Saturdays, so the next morning, there would be no chance to sleep in as our mom would repeatedly remind us Mass was in half an hour.
I would pretend to profoundly sleep, hoping my acting skills would work on my mother too. Alas, she knows me too well. As routine, I dressed, grabbed a snack, reached my seat in the car before my brother and we finally made our way to the church.
Sitting in the pews, my mind would drift into thought, mostly about lunch later that day, but also reflecting on the performance. Watching the priest lead the Mass pushed me to consider the Mass as a play; the altar was a stage, where priests, deacons and altar servers performed works from the Bible and the Catholic Church for the congregation.
Following the idea came the question: Why do we do it? Centuries of doctrine, Scripture and tradition boiling down to a weekly one-hour performance — incredibly parallel to a play, where hours layered upon hours of exertion are endured for a show of possibly three hours. In the end, what purpose does it serve?
Our first performance for the year was in its last week of rehearsals, otherwise known as tech week, and tension could not have been heavier. During our dress rehearsal, panic (Where is my script? I still haven’t memorized that one part!), uncertainty (Hey, uh, how are we supposed to move in act two again?), frustration (I can’t find my costume! I remember leaving it right here. Where’d it go?) and agony (Oh, why did I agree to do this? The girl I like is out there!) accumulated steadily, until finally, I walked offstage, heading outside to cool off.
My director followed me out, and asked if everything was alright. I explained my dissatisfaction and irritation. His answer to me was quite simple: do as Christ did; offer yourself as a gift to others — to the audience. He smiled and left me to finish collecting my thoughts.
Showtime came, and I followed his instructions, placing all worries behind me to focus on offering myself to the audience. This night, this time, the feeling of fulfillment persisted. Shifting my focus away from myself and instead to the others around me answered why I loved theater. In the simplest of forms, theater is a relationship, where the actors onstage give themselves willingly to the spectating audience.
The next morning, I underwent the same routine in preparation for church. Only this time, I realized one thing: God willingly gave us his only son to save our souls. Jesus Christ died for our sins, and every time we walk into the “weekly one-hour performance” we call Mass, Jesus offers himself to us through the Eucharist, truly the greatest gift and sign of his love. From a young age, the desire to serve others has laid within me. Theater adjusted my perspective of my faith and my style of acting, guiding me to emulate Jesus to give one’s self to others.
Apolo Castillo is a senior at Subiaco Academy. He attends St. Boniface Church in Fort Smith.
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