These past three years, I have been lucky enough to be a participant in an amazing theatre program called Five Star. This was my final summer at Five Star, as I am now fifteen. Today, during our last day together, all of the “graduating” participants gave speeches describing their experiences. This rambling, emotional mess was mine. I wrote it in the middle of the night, and it isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but I think I conveyed my emotions as well as I could.
Five Star = Family.
I guess I should start by saying that I honestly didn’t think that this day would ever come. Even now, I want so badly believe that it isn’t quite over yet. How can it be? What happened to the scared, uncertain, insecure little girl I used to be, the one who stepped through the high school doors three years ago, and into one of the most wonderful experiences of her life? How could the time pass so quickly, within the blink of an eye, when I remember that first morning as clearly as though it were yesterday?
I can safely say that these past three summers were the best I have ever had. To perform in a show requires confidence, fearlessness, enthusiasm, and trust. There are no words for the electrifying experience of opening night, or that one final moment of raw energy and excitement before the curtains part and you step forward beneath stage lights.
To agree to be a part of the Five Star theatre program is to agree to spend long hours in the auditorium, longer hours in the rooms without air conditioning, and to handle the pressure and intensity of the audition, callback, and performance without complaint. But it is something else as well. To join Five Star is to open yourself to that rich, emotional, and unforgettable display of unbridled freedom, self-expression, and joy that can only be found in one place in the world: the theatre.
These three summers have left me with a lot of people to thank.
My first shout-out goes to the remarkable Julia Popken. Without you I would never have taken any interest in theatre. When you invited me to the RMHS performance of Me And My Girl, I tagged along hoping it wouldn’t be too boring. As it happened, that night was some sort of turning point for me. After showing up at Me And My Girl twice more in that week, I proceeded to attend every single RMHS play that was put on in the next two years. Theatre became an incredibly important part of my life— I remember staying home when my family went on vacation to New York, because I had heard that the drama club was putting on Chess that weekend, and I was determined to see it not once, but every single night. Julia, it seems like so long ago that you first encouraged me to start Five Star, and then guided and supported me all the way throughout my first summer here. Now we are almost in our sophomore year of high school, and you are a part of that same drama club we used to watch so faithfully together. I go to those shows alone now to watch you perform. And I want to thank you for helping me recognize a dream, and encouraging me to pursue it. If it hadn’t been for you, I might have missed out on everything.
My second shout out goes to Samantha Gibbs. I had an amazing time with you these last two summers. You are as remarkably genuine and loving as you are confident and hilarious, and I enjoyed every moment we spent together. I watched you grow more and more independent this summer, and I knew you were going to be just fine without me. Sammie, you were the little sister I always wanted, the sweetest and most entertaining sidekick I could ever have asked for. I love you, sweetie, and I’m sorry that I won’t be here to carry your bag around for you next summer.
My third shout out goes Mr. Endslow, Ms. Killian, Ms. Stone, and all of the counselors and staff. If I could say any one thing to you all, it would be this: never underestimate the power of what you do. The talent, energy, and passion you display provides the inspiration for everybody in this program. Your enthusiasm does not go unappreciated. The kids at Five Star view you all as role models, authority figures, and friends, and the impact you have is enormous. Never forget that, because you mean a lot to all of us.
My final shout out goes out to every single fifteen year old in this auditorium. I have loved every year spent in this incredible program with all of you. We grew up together, spent our summers together, and performed together. I don’t think any of us truly expected it to end. But I guess we should always have known that it wouldn’t last, because it was beautiful, and beautiful things never do. So now I guess another chapter of our lives ends here, on this stage in front of the people we love the most. Words can’t express just how much I am going to miss all of you next year.
These last three summers have been extraordinary for me. I am not that frightened little girl anymore, struggling to memorize dance moves and make friends in a new place. I have grown and changed and learned, as everybody does. I am almost sixteen years old now: pushing through high school, working on the weekends, and learning how to drive. But whenever I hear those special Five Star warm-up songs, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, the joy of summertime comes back to me, and I am thirteen again. Regardless of what my future may hold, Five Star will always be a part of me. It will always be a part of all of us.
Thank you all for the best three summers of my life.