Climbing the Mountain
To be honest, I have dreaded this moment for some time. It seems like a daunting task: to write something personal that is meant to engender approval while sounding neither pleading nor arrogant, that will stand out in some way among the writings of thousands of other intelligent people striving to achieve the same goal as me, but also avoiding writing anything that will cause the eyes of a probably exhausted reader to glaze over. To possibly make matters worse, I was a theater major in college, and performance is where the bulk of my energies have been directed, leaving a "real world" rèsumè that is certainly nothing special. I finally realized, though, that I was letting that blind me to the fact that I have managed to make contributions to my community, even if said community was a bit unusual.
When I was working on my bachelor's in theater, the college I was attending was making a concerted effort to draw a greater number of performing arts-oriented students, and I was one of these. This was an exciting time to be there, with a strong feeling of an up-and-coming community, but it did mean that existing organizations and structures were often not quite enough to accommodate a sudden drastic increase in interest.
One of my primary interests as a performer was in improv comedy. I had little experience, but was fascinated by it and wanted to learn everything I could about it. The college did have an extraordinary student improv troupe already, but the sudden increase in interest in acting became a detriment. Once a semester, there would be open auditions for new members; usually, up to a hundred people would be competing for one or two slots. This did not leave much of a chance for someone who was not already well trained in this unique genre of performance to join, and it left no opportunity to learn and eventually attain that level of proficiency. So, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I decided to make my own opportunity and found my own troupe.
This was a bit of a problem, as I had about as much experience in founding and running organizations as I had in improv. However, I did know how to take advantage of the resources at my disposal. It turned out that an existing organization, the Creative and Performing Arts Community, had the extra funds in its budget and a desire for an ongoing group like mine, so I established my troupe as a subsidiary of the CPAC, which handled most of the administrative details. That took care of the structure.
I realized that this could be seen as sour grapes, as an action taken by a rejected auditioner with a grudge, so I took pains to remove any sense of competition with the existing group; after all, my goal was to learn improv, and alienating the group would rob my troupe of a potentially valuable resource. I invited the other troupe to see our first show for free in the front row and even went so far as to join their tech crew to establish a connection between the two groups. Student performance groups are highly prone to infighting, and I did everything I could to make sure that did not happen.
There was one last detail, of course; I could set up my own group for those who needed to learn, myself included, but how could I "teach" when the whole point of the group was gaining experience? I saw that I was of limited use as a director with little experience myself, and for my group to succeed I would need someone with more experience to be in charge. I sought out a senior with substantial experience who had long wanted to start such a group, but who had never quite gotten around to getting a structure in place. We each had what the other needed. We agreed to share the duties of running the group until auditions were over and the real work was to begin, at which point I turned over full control to him. In the end, everyone got what they wanted; I and several others now had our opportunity to learn and perform, and my partner had the opportunity to close out his college career in charge of his own troupe. Even the first troupe profited, as having a "training camp" improved the quality of the pool of talent from which it could draw. The troupe lasted for several years after the departures of my partner and me, which made me feel that I had made a real contribution to the growth of the performing arts community on campus. The troupe eventually faded away, but the original cast members are all still in very close contact with each other; it is quite the clinchè on which to close, but even if they never use what they learned now that they have all graduated, they have still made friendships that look to be lifelong, and I also take pride in having brought them together.