College is a time for you to spread your wings, create lasting memories, and have new experiences. If you spread your wings far enough, you might just branch out beyond campus and find something you are passionate about in the surrounding community. This is exactly how freshman Valerie Gales became the director of “Annie, Jr.,” a play presented by Little Actors Theatre (LAT) in Valdosta.
What drew you to volunteer at Little Actors Theatre?
Back home, I volunteered with my local middle school theatre department, where I served as the stage manager for several years. When I came to Valdosta I wasn’t doing anything with theatre and I really missed it, so I decided to get back to doing what I really loved – teaching theatre to kids. This January I started looking into community theatre programs around Valdosta, and I found Little Actors Theatre. I started off as a volunteer, where I was doing a lot of jobs that typically fall under the “assistant director” category, so I gradually took over that role.
What did being the assistant director for “Annie, Jr.” entail?
As an assistant director, I helped our director run rehearsals. I would run them by myself if she was out. As assistant director, I was able to spend a lot of time working with the kids individually, helping them build clear characters and find their motivation for certain scenes.
How did you go from assistant director to director?
After a couple of weeks as assistant director, I found out that our director was scheduled to have back surgery. She was expecting to be out for a week, but one week turned to two, which turned to three, and eventually, I was asked to take over as director while she recovered.
What was the most challenging part of taking over as the director? What was the most exciting part?
I think the hardest part was balancing my desire to please everybody with what I had envisioned for the show. I wanted everyone to like me, kids and parents included, but you can’t always please everyone. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and say, “No, this is how it’s going to be – I’m sorry.”
In the end, it was exciting to take the ideas in my head and run with those; I especially loved getting to work more closely with the kids. It was great to see the finished product and know how much they’ve all grown over a short couple of months!
Would you eventually want to be a full-time director?
I definitely want to work with children and theatre! If that path leads to being a full-time director, then great! My current goal though is to utilize theatre in a therapeutic way to help people, primarily children, and I’m excited that Little Actors Theatre has given me the opportunity to explore that.
What advice would you give other VSU students who are looking for ways to gain experience in their field of interest?
Look for opportunities outside of campus! People really push on-campus groups, which can be great, but you’ll find just as many opportunities off campus, too. I would have never found Little Actors if I hadn’t been researching local community theatres, and I never would have had the opportunity to direct if I hadn’t put myself out there by offering to help in any capacity. Find what you want to do and pursue it. Don’t be afraid to take a smaller job than you picture yourself in – you never know where you’ll end up!