Sometimes you need a reminder of why are doing what you are doing. Feel me? Sometimes when you've been doing more "business" than "show," you forget what you loved about show business in the first place. I got a more than healthy dose of reminder yesterday at my school's "Big Show." But let me backtrack so you understand what a Big Show is.
Since October, I've been mentoring with the The Young Storytellers Foundation. Long story short, this amazing program connects 5th graders with mentors (actors, writers, executives) in the industry who help them learn the art of storytelling and writing. Each student creates a 5 to 7 page screenplay by the end of the program, culminating in a Big Show. Professional actors donate their time to first "audition" for the kids (i.e. hilariously present their talents to them in the hopes that they will be "cast" in one of the screenplays) and then perform the screenplays for a live audience of elementary school students.
YSF rolls out a red carpet for the kids where they can take a bow in front of their peers and teachers, gives them VIP passes to wear around their necks, and has each student and their mentor sit up front while their show is being performed. The result is nothing short of magical. If you know me, you know my aversion to schmaltzy actor feelings. To constantly hash tagging about how amazing everything is, even when it's not the reality of the situation or just a guise for a #humblebrag. But yesterday, during the Big Show, I was actually feeling these amazing feelings; they just weren't for me or my own performance. I was feeling them for my 5th grade mentee and all of her buddies whom we had been working with over the semester. I just loved watching my mentee witness her own words that she had written come to life. It was magic. See for yourself:
A friend of mine is on the board of YSF and invited me to several events over the past couple years. I loved hearing what the program was all about and meeting other people who were involved and watching famous, hilarious actors perform some of the best screenplays that students have written, but I didn't make the leap into mentoring until this year. I had this weird idea that because I don't make that much money, I couldn't possibly spare my time to volunteer. Looking back, I really don't get why/how I could rationally think that. As an actor, writer, and tutor, I have the luxury of a flexible schedule. So yes, I am available to spend an hour and a half once a week playing with stories. And guess what, Gilli: rich people volunteer, sure, but not-rich people can volunteer too! What a concept. I'm glad I clued myself in. And did I mention that a couple of my talented actor friends showed up in the middle of the day and donated their time to perform for the kids? Well, they did, and my mentee chose one of them to play the lead role in her screenplay!
I think I get why people who volunteer do it all the time. It's addicting. It's magic.