I belong to Generation Z. I was born on May 6th, 2001; after the Cold War had ended and the world entered the new millennium. Only months before the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the War on Terror. I had just started kindergarten when the first iPhone was released, and I grew up watching as social media brought the world together and subsequently divided it.
I taught myself to read at an early age, and that brought an early awareness of the state of the world. I remember headlines lamenting the wars being fought overseas and the injustices within our country. I spent the first years of my childhood attending anti-war protests with my parents; as a toddler I called them “peace now” walks, from the classic call and response chant.
Years passed, and as the first members of our generation now enter adulthood, we are each finding our unique places in the world and our roles in our communities. I discovered my role in my freshman year of high school, when I auditioned for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The moment I stepped on stage, I felt something click within me, like the last few pieces of a puzzle. I saw the bright lights in my eyes, the shadowed faces of the audience, and I knew that I had found my place in the world. Over the course of high school, I have immersed myself in theatre, spending nearly every second of my spare time in rehearsal. I found my community there: a loving group of people who welcomed me in and supported me throughout my time with them. This was especially significant to me, as I had never had a friend group before.
I feel completely at home on a stage. I adore the thrill of singing with an orchestra, the powerful connection I have with the audience, the amazing collaborative relationship with the rest of the company, and the new worlds I am able to embrace. Theatre allows me to become countless different characters and experience lives completely different from my own, thereby giving me an ever expanding understanding of humanity.
As I continued to immerse myself in the world of live theatre, I began to realize the unparalleled power and impact that it has. From social justice theatre providing a space to tackle difficult and controversial subjects, to dramas and tragedies providing the catharsis of deep emotional release, to comedy, gifting us with silly joy and relief from the struggles of life; theatre plays a vital part in humanity’s quest to understand itself and to thrive.
I can see now that this will be my role within my generation. I will play the part of the entertainer, helping the world to laugh, to cry, to learn. I have watched and participated as my generation has begun to see how we can affect change in the world in small ways such as local bake sales to raise money for political campaigns, or going door to door registering voters, to grander moments such as the national high school walk out protesting gun violence.
I know that this generation will make a difference. We are not an amalgamation of broad strokes and common traits. We are the sum total of millions of individuals, each with their own unique personalities and experiences. But in a time where there are innumerable lines that divide our society, people of all walks of life can still sit together and enjoy the same play. I hope to be on that stage, a part of something bigger than myself, helping all generations sharing this world with me to understand our humanity and to thrive.