“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” – William Shakespeare
We all, each and every one of us, have the ability to put on a great show in life. We are performing and living out our lives on a grand stage each and every day. Every performance is different because we are all unique. But if you can find a way to bring the performers together, united with common talents and abilities, you might create a little magic and even change someone’s story.
After all, everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (102): Somewhere to “B”
There’s a place for us,
somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quite and open air.
Wait for us.
– lyrics from “Somewhere”, West Side Story
They lovingly refer to her as Mrs. B and for nearly a decade now they have found their place on the stage, helping their director to tell a story and showcasing their talents for thousands who have come to see the performances. They being the actors, Mrs. B. being the director, and the stories being each and every performance she has had the privilege to lead.
The showcase is the stage at Calvert Hall College in Baltimore County, MD, which for the past few months has served as the rehearsal platform for the upcoming performance of the classic musical, West Side Story.
For Jillian Bauersfeld, Mrs. B, it is yet another opportunity to fulfill her passion in life: “The theater has the ability to change people’s lives. It could be as simple as this production changes the way people look at the world, or something as simple as it brings a smile to their faces. And I really try to tell the students that – you have no idea what or who you are affecting when you are up on that stage. The other reason is this is really for the kids – theater is my life – it’s always been my life and to watch them create something that is truly theirs, and to watch them grow and mature and own it – is what fulfills me more than anything else.”
There’s a time for us,
Someday a time for us.
Time together with time to spare,
time to learn, time to care.
It’s creativity, unity and the unbridled enthusiasm of young performers, teenagers, coming together to share in the experience of theater. Many of these students share Mrs. B’s passion for performance and getting the chance to tell a story.
“I did sports a little when I was younger and I liked it, but as soon as I started theater I just felt like this was right. This is my passion. I personally love the fact I can be someone else and bring other people joy through it. I started when I was in 5th grade and I’ve been doing it ever since.” – Brendan, performing as Action
“It just makes me feel good and I like that I can make other people feel good by doing something that I love. That’s why I keep coming back every year, I’ve made some great friends and Mrs. B, she’s a great director. She kind of inspires me and pushes me to work harder, become better and I love the feeling it gives me and the feeling I can give other people through acting.” Lucie, performing as Graziella
“The thing about putting musical theater together is you can’t put it together twice – even when you perform it with the same people at the same time, it’s going to be a different experience every time and that’s really unique and I love that a lot.” – Cooper, performing as Mouthpiece
To get the students to perform at their best you have to be led by someone with a strong vision, a leader who knows not only how to be a director, but knows exactly in what direction she wants her performers to travel. Mrs. B loves leading the way.
“I started performing in local community stuff when I was about 10 and then I majored in it in college,” says Mrs. B. “I was an acting major and then kind of grew a passion for directing my senior year. I played around for a couple of years performing and performing professionally and then one day my dad said why don’t you try to work with kids. I applied for this job at Calvert Hall nine years ago and I’ve directed 25 shows here. So this has been the one thing that stuck. I tried every sport and this is the one thing that stuck.”
We’ll find a new way of living,
We’ll find a way of forgiving.
For the students who participate, whether it’s acting, assisting the director or working in the tech crew, theater can change lives. My own daughter Sophie is part of this season’s performance of West Side Story and I have had the chance to observe how immersed she is in the production, supporting her fellow actors and how much she respects Mrs. B and her abilities.
Mrs. B says, “I stay very close with my alumni, both the young men from Calvert Hall and the young ladies who come in. Many of them have told me they found what made them better, and in a tough time in their life when they are teenagers and trying to discover themselves, theater was a safe place. I hear things like ‘theater changed my life, theater gave me a purpose, theater made me accountable for myself.'”
“I have students who actually got married from this program. They met each other and they created these relationships, these life-long friendships. It’s kind of an honor to be able to say because of this community and because of the family that it is I’m able to provide life opportunities for young people who maybe wouldn’t have had them. They might have been lost in their environment, home life’s not great, or something else, and if they can come here for just a couple of hours a day and feel completely unjudged and completely at peace with who they are, then that’s awesome.”
To truly make a show work, to be totally immersed and to make it come to life you definitely need synergy between those on the stage and the person guiding them through their journey. This performance of West Side Story has that and more, because it’s incredible to hear how many of the actors share the same level of passion as their director.
“I love doing shows because it allows me to express myself on stage without judgement and I’m around a great group of friends, everybody’s nice, everybody’s really supportive and it’s just a great community. I’ve always loved singing and performing on stage I’m very dramatic – I’ve been told I’m dramatic. It’s always been a passion of mine ever since I was young – dancing, singing, performing. I guess it’s my thing. It’s neat to learn about new cultures and new experiences.” – Lillian, performing as Maria.
“I come from a very athletic family – and I was never very athletic – so I found this to be a home because I get to express myself in a different way and they’re all, (my family), very supportive of that. It’s just an outlet for different feelings and emotions that other activities couldn’t really express, that’s why I like it. It’s a unit and I like unity. Getting that applause at the end of the show there’s nothing like that energy for me at least. I like that natural high, like feeling like I accomplished something that people enjoyed and so the fact that I can do my job as a performer and make other people happy is why I like to act and sing and perform. – Grant, performing as Bernardo
To make a show like West Side Story come to life there has to be a tremendous amount of giving – from everyone involved in the production – from tech crew to actors to the director – and if you give in just the right fashion, what you get is a performance to be proud of.
“I love watching something that’s in my brain – which is a real scary place if anybody ever went in there,” jokes Mrs. B., “you know you’ve got it in your head and two months later it’s all there on the stage and it’s like wow.”
She continues, “Directors are storytellers. I always tell the kids that I get the opportunity to tell a story and I need you to help me do that. I need you go give me everything inside of you so that I can tell this story. And when I’m sitting in the back of the theater on opening night and people are just mesmerized and the kids are giving it their all, I just sit back and go wow, my story is right there and the kids are doing it, it’s great. It’s really great with young people because teen years in particular, the greatest thing is when they get it.”
Not only do the student actors get it, they feel it. “It’s just a feeling it gives me – like a buzz – but it’s not just in me I can feel it in other people – it’s like – and I know it sounds cheesy and really cliché – but it’s like drawing us all together and it’s just a really great thing to do.” – Ryan, performing as Diesel
When you love it, especially the arts, you get the chance to take others on a journey with you, to hold their hands, their hearts and their minds, to help them to travel through whatever you are creating. For Mrs. B it’s the love of directing – and while she long ago found her why – she has a message for anyone who is looking for their own desire and purpose:
“Find something you’re passionate about and go head into it. Like whatever your thing is, own it and love it and be willing to open your eyes to new things and new opportunities and new people. Be able to look at the world and be so open to the idea that things can be different then the way you know them to be. Theater does that because it put kids from different communities and different backgrounds together and it also takes material like West Side Story and it forces them to become aware of it and different cultures. It makes them realize the world is so large and vast and there really isn’t one way to live it. You just have to live it passionately.”
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
Tickets for West Side Story at Calvert Hall Theatre are available at the door and online at http://www.calverthall.com/page/School-Life/Arts/Theatre
The show dates for West Side Story are:
Friday April 8th at 7pm
Saturday, April 9th at 7pm
Sunday, April 10th at 2pm
Friday, April 15th at 7pm
Saturday, April 16th at 7pm
Sunday, April 17th at 2pm
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