There is nothing more exciting and nerve wracking than choosing a college and declaring a major. High school seniors have had to make these monumental decisions with the pandemic in mind. This is especially true for teenagers debating if they should enter a career in the performing arts. However, local seniors have taken this added pressure in stride and have ended up gaining a newfound perspective on their passion for theatre.
Samuel Scriven is a senior at Leon High School and an active member of the Tallahassee performing arts scene. Since the pandemic, Scriven has learned the vital role that theatre plays in his life. “Theatre, while it stacked my schedule, made me more productive and increased my energy. Without it, my motivation slipped, and I had to find busywork to keep moving. Getting small doses of the theatre life during this time rekindled sparks of what used to be, so I know that I couldn’t leave it behind.”
This realization made Scriven determined to attend a school in New York City in order to further his love for theatre, leading him to commit to Fordham University. “I’ve wholly affirmed myself that theatre is a passion I intend to pursue, and thus, finding a college in the heart of New York became a large desire.”
However, the hiatus from theatre has made other students rethink the future they envisioned for themselves pre-pandemic. Lily Zuehlke is a senior at Lawton Chiles High School and has been an avid member of the Tallahassee theatre community since childhood. For the past several years she dreamed of seriously pursuing the performing arts. After committing to Florida State University for college, she was faced with choosing a major. While she was considering her options, she was concurrently coming to terms with a pandemic induced separation from an art form she held close to her heart.
“Theatre as a whole was forced to stop. Instead of worrying about preparing for the International Thespian Society State Festival, which was promptly cancelled, I found myself fearing for the lives of my loved ones,” Zuehlke states. It would be almost eight months until Zuehlke would be able to perform again, but this abrupt cutoff allowed her to look at her relationship with theatre from a different angle. “I realized that in my personal case, attaching the stress of a career to something I purely found joy in would take the joy away from it.”
Ultimately, Zuehlke decided she did not want to pursue a career in theatre; however, this bittersweet realization provided a renewed love for the artform. “I believe that this break strengthened my relationship with theatre overall. I now have a more full understanding of the role theatre and the arts play in my life. This understanding has allowed me to enjoy my current arts experiences even more.”
As a high school senior myself, I empathize with those who are having to make these kinds of decisions during such a challenging time. Regardless of the path anyone chooses, the arts will always hold a special place in our lives and be a marker of a historic moment in our collective past. Through theatre, I have not only grown as an artist, but also as a student and an individual. It has taught me to improvise when my original plans go astray and to collaborate with others in order to create something beautiful. As long as we treasure these values of creativity and collaboration we will be able to thrive in even the most difficult seasons of life.
Anna Maguire is a senior at Lawton Chiles High School and a student extern with COCA. She’s a big theater kid and when she’s not at rehearsal, you can find her at any coffee shop, hanging with her cat Coconut, or in a courtroom with her mock trial team. She'll be attending New York University this fall and is excited to explore arts and culture in Italy at the NYU Florence campus during her freshman year.