Although I’ve probably attempted to do so in previous blog posts, I can’t begin to describe just how much the Performing Arts has changed my life since I discovered it as a trembling fresher in first year. My first set of auditions for a show is a stand-out memory for me, as, being extremely shy, I can remember being aghast at having only just met some people for the first time – and then having to pretend to be married to them!
Back then just being on stage seemed a terrifying prospect, and I wasn’t sure why I subjected myself to it. Four academic years and twenty-five shows later, and the (admittedly still extremely nerve-racking but electrifying) buzz, coupled with nerves and adrenaline galore, is still there - but I’ve learnt to enjoy it along the way!
Of all the shows, it’s definitely the best costume I’ve had to wear!
It’s not just the time on stage, though, or indeed even time off stage – it’s the experience, the journey (if I’m going to be theatrical!) that you go through as both an individual in your role, and a collective with your fellow students within casts, teams or committees, that makes being part of the Performing Arts (or any student group) so special.
I’ve picked up an incredible number of skills from societies, be it public speaking (including dealing with nerves!), project management and co-ordination (of pretty large teams over several months), budgeting, scheduling, touring, designing, teamwork exercises, application writing, communication, and most of all, learning how to relax and trust your instincts. All of these complement the excellent academic groundings that I’ve picked up through my course in Computer Science and Software Engineering.
A far cry from that trembling first audition, definitely!
Along the way, I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting the most inspirational set of people I think I ever will. There’s some innate quality within the casts, crews and production teams I’ve got to know over the past four years that makes them so radiant, enthusiastic, full of quite breathtakingly brilliant ideas, and just great fun to be in the company of . Or maybe it’s just the number of times we’ve acted weirdly with each other in rehearsal rooms (which we always explain with “theatre!”)!
Over the course of the four years, I’ve seen plenty of these people come and go, and formed some fantastic friendships which I know will ensure we’ll keep in touch. Being part of such a strong community, as is the case with being part of SUSU, the Students' Union, in general, has been an honour, and has allowed me to achieve things which I couldn’t have imagined ever having the confidence or ambition to even dream of at first, let alone implement.
I couldn’t have imagined singing publicly at the start of University, let alone wearing eyeliner!
Being part of a show is truly a team effort in all senses, and as a result never fails to be a privilege – even if it does take time away from studying every now and again (although doing both is very doable)! It’s this sense of community which has made me feel so at home during my time here, at ease and enjoying myself at the University, and for anyone coming in September, it’s very, very easy to get into – all you have to do is turn up to a meeting and say hello, and things will go from there!
If the stage isn’t your thing, this experience is replicated in all forms of student group, be it media (the SUSU has its own entertainment magazine, newspaper, and radio and television stations), sports (… far too many to list!), RAG (Raising & Giving), academic clubs, lifestyle groups, and many more. Going along for the first time is probably the most nerve-racking experience of all at University, when you know nobody and everything is new – but if you do take that step, I can promise you that you won’t regret it!
As for Into the Woods, it’s really been one of the best experiences of my life – as every show seems to have been! Spending time with such a brilliantly talented cast and crew over the last few weeks, playing Ultimate Frisbee on the sunny University campus during our breaks, and having movie nights and meals together to give us a break from revision for impending exams (the next priority!). It’s summed up what life in the Performing Arts has been for me: better than I could ever have foreseen, thanks to the people around me.
Oh, and as I’m playing a Prince, I guess getting to dress up as royalty and over-dramatically prance around has been fun, too!
It’s going to be a strange feeling stepping off stage come Saturday evening in light of everything, but I know I couldn’t have asked for (or indeed fit in!) more. I’ll only be able to thank SUSU Performing Arts for making my life at the University of Southampton an extraordinary experience – or a journey 'Into the Woods', if you will!