If Drama Be the Food of Love, Don’t Play Sports
by Sarah Ford on Friday, December 5th, 2014
Milton is full of theater kids and tri-varsity athletes. The familiar divisions are most apparent after the academic day, when one set gravitates towards the ACC and the other towards the Kellner Performing Arts Center. However, these groups’ theatrical and athletic spheres rarely seem to overlap. What is stopping them? Nobody wants to say it, but the unspeakable “C word” undeniably factors into the mutual exclusivity between theatre and sports. Yes, college. Colleges are watching. Always. As a result, students become increasingly concerned about their extracurriculars during their time at Milton.
Theater and sports are less disjointed among underclassmen exploring new areas of interests; freshmen seem to still be able to play a sport and take part in the Class IV play. However, if you have missed your opportunity freshman or sophomore year, well, that ship has sailed. To upperclassmen, this question must be asked: why risk wasting time trying to cultivate a new talent, when you could be promoting your specific abilities in an already competitive college market?
The key issue here is lack of time. Both extracurricular activities demand an exorbitant amount of time. The two also take place in the same time frame. Milton supports a rich array of clubs, teams, and performances, a large portion of which you will never have taken part in by the time you graduate. There simply isn’t enough time in one’s schedule. Prioritization becomes a necessity. In addition, unlike the majority of on-campus extracurricular activities, theater rehearsals and sports practices occur far later than Milton’s allotted “activities period.” As a result, directors and coaches can extend rehearsals and practices until 5:45 or even until after dinner, demanding so much time that another commitment would leave students with no time for either homework or sleep. Expectations, obviously, run high.
Even for clubs, time commitments often become a problem. For example, the coaches for this year’s Speech Team have demanded weekly meetings, practice periods and Saturday tournaments, in addition to the extra time required for memorizing one’s pieces. Theater productions proceed in similar fashion. Directors encourage understudies to snap at opportunities during lead actors’ missed rehearsals, and the infamous ‘tech week’ wreaks havoc on students’ schedules. Sports teams know no mercy. Coaches offer punishment laps, class cuts, and the promise of a bench warming position for noncommittal players.
All of the above threaten expulsion from the activity due to a lack of commitment. As a result, practiced theater kids rarely decide to try a new sport in the place of a production, and varsity athletes are not known to take a season off to audition for the new play or musical. Any overlap between participants in athletics and theater typically occurs as a product of sports requirements. Many theater devotees opt to attend PE during the season of the play they are in. However, tri-varsity athletes are left without the opportunity to perform, while students who may want to perform all three seasons—maybe the fall musical, a winter 1212, and the spring play—simply cannot commit to a sports team, whether or not they want to.
Unfortunately, a sports requirement equivalent does not seem to exist within the theatrical community beyond freshman year. Besides the required Performing Arts Class IV students are required to take, there is no theater requirement provoking athletes into the theatrical realm. A portion of theatrics-directed clubs, such as Improv or Speech Team, meet during activities periods, but these student run organizations often don’t provide enough guidance for novices. The clubs are hardly doors into the theatrical world. Athletes seeking to experiment in theater must either sacrifice a season of their sports commitment or forget the notion altogether, unless they wish to participate in one or two pieces in our school’s annual Dance Concert. With athletic or theatrical scholarships on the line, rebellious decisions become highly unlikely.
In order to diminish the mutual exclusivity between after school performing arts and athletics, the matter must be taken into the administration’s hands. Milton’s administration controls the accessibility of theater. If theater and athletics are to mix in the Milton community, a theatrical option—maybe not as stringent as the sports requirement, but something more along the lines of an intramural—should exist. As the seasons tick by towards college, fewer athletes ponder the possibility of experimenting with their dramatic talents. Action is necessary, so current students—maybe underclassmen as opposed to upperclassmen—can experience everything they want at Milton. Time is of the essence.
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