Adult children of the theater run around the world (2023)



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A Supreme Court Justice. The governor of New Jersey. Senator Ted Cruz. A featured MSNBC presenter. Practically half of the tech world. What is behind this moment of theatrical power?

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Adult children of the theater run around the world (1)

VonMadison Malone Kircher

Madison Malone Kircher has appeared in 18 musicals.

They are everywhere.

Mumble "Thanks, high five" under your breath as you walk past their booths to remind them there's a staff meeting in five minutes. Played a little too well at office karaoke after protesting a little too much about going on stage.

Former children of the theater. You go among us.

Technically I should sayusAs proof of that, I have a decade of unflattering photos of myself with cakey makeup and a scar on my stomach from a quick, failed "Grand Hotel" outfit change. If I never join another massage circuit again, it will be too soon.

What happens to theater kids when we grow up? There is of course the dream scenario: motivated, talented and happy theater children.Become working theater adults.

Like Ben Platt, who in 2017 at the age of 23 became the youngest single Tony winner in the category "Best Actor in a Musical" for his leading role in "Dear Evan Hansen".

Platt's fiancé is actor Noah Galvin, who also played Evan Hansen on Broadway. (Yes, you read that right, the Evans Hansen are engaged.) And this summer, you can catch Evans Hansen on screen in Theater Camp, a mockumentary inspired in part by Platt's childhood experiences. Mr. Platt and Mr. Galvin are also two of the film's writers.

The hit film: Deadline described its opening at the box office over the weekend as "remarkable” – suggests there is a paying audience, and a fairly large one at that, craving nostalgia for the children of theatre. Perhaps because most theatrical kids become almost anything but theatrical adults. And lately, it seems like theater kids, the underdog clichés of high school, actually rule the world. Everywhere you look there's a former Annie or Gertrude McFuzz at the helm.


Long before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown was Jacksontook part in the theatreand improvisation as a graduate student at Harvard and was once in an acting class with Matt Damon, then a student and now a Hollywood actor. (Mr. Damon didn't remember it, but thought it was "pretty cool," The Associated Pressreported.)

Senator Ted CruzHe's been known to talk about his acting days in high school, including his role as Bill Sikes, the villain, on Oliver! ("It's a fun part and everyone cheers when you end up getting killed," said Cruz of the character beating a woman to death in act two.)

Other former theater kids include the governor of New Jersey and the editor of New York Magazine. Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canadataught drama in high school.

These former adult theater powerhouses all exist in a time when the very things that drama-loving teens used to make a simple hoax have become strongholds. These days it's often rewarding to recognize a colossal version of yourself. The rise of virtual remote meetings has almost certainly favored people who like it, or at least know how to present themselves to an audience. They know how to gesticulate a little more exaggeratedly and are ready to hold energetic monologues in front of the silent emptiness of the faces peeping out of the boxes.

And a world increasingly mediated by short videos on platforms like Instagram and TikTok? There also shine theater-unsuccessful children.

"It's a great time for thisheart pain"It's happening right now, and you can say what you will about theater kids, but we're very good at shrinking," said Zoelle Egner, 34. At Block Party, she was fired from her first role as Cindy Lou Who after she ... stopped mid-show to tell the Grinch she was out of character. (She was 4 years old.)She peaked in eighth grade when she starred in Hello, Dolly!

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I don't think my best personal trait is wanting people to pay attention to me," said Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hayes." "But we live in a culture that really rewards thirst."

Hayes was hooked after starring in a seventh grade production.I forgot the joke, but I said it, and everyone laughed and said, 'Oh, that's good!'" In college, he directed John Krasinski in an action-movie musical parody, "like 'Die Hard.' , basically the musical," he said.

"'Pick me, watch me' is the dominant cultural ethos," Hayes continued, adding that bringing theater kids into the workforce is "like unleashing a predator on an ecosystem."

Mr. Hayes has drawn a direct link from his more recent theater endeavors to his current work. An obvious line maybe, but he's not the only one. Many former theater children describe a transition from extracurricular activities to certain professions: journalism, public service broadcasting, law, public relations, politics.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy credits his time on stage, as King Arthur in a production of Camelot in Needham, Massachusetts, and as a member of Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club with teaching him some of the skills conveyed, he needs your career. Work "I still get butterflies from time to time, but it's rare that I feel scared when I stand up and talk in front of people," she said.

Theater gave him a certain serenity, he said: "If part of the stage fell down, or someone in the audience got sick, or someone on stage forgot their lines, I learned a long time ago to go with the flow, like ." You, they say." Another useful political skill: She learned tap dancing, for "No, no, Nanette."

(Mr. Murphy also said he'd seen three productions of Hello, Dolly!, one starring Carol Channing, another starring Ethel Merman, and the third starring Bette Midler. "It's hard to argue with Channing, but she were all good." he said. )

Education is another area that rewards skills acquired in the theater. "To me, teaching is just a theatrical performance," said Jessica C. Harris, associate professor of higher education and organizational change at the University of California, Los Angeles. "I feel so good like I'm about to step on stage before entering the classroom. And that doesn't mean it's not authentic in the classroom. It just means I really came to life." (He starred in a post-apocalyptic production of Macbeth in high school.)

After logging on to social media, I heard theater kids from all over the world in every imaginable profession: at the Department of Justice, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Goldman Sachs, as well as doctors and lawyers. The tech world is pretty mean to them, at Apple, Salesforce, and Google (Figma's CEO is a theater boy, too). There was a wine educator, a strategist for a tonic water company, a guy who has a "hot dog," and so many marketers I lost count. And influencers, journalists, and an associate professor who also has a company that sells cat backpacks. (Not surprisingly, adults in the theater are very good at marketing themselves.)

Ms. Egner likes to see drama in an applicant's CV. "Everyone is obsessed with signing athletes," he said. "I'm especially happy when I see people directing on stage."

"If you get actors to show up on time and do what they're supposed to do, you can do anything," he explained, adding that former actors are particularly good at recognizing and responding to work situations.

"I think most theater people have compassion," said Laura Miranda-Browne, executive director of a sustainable development fund. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes to empathize with the role builds "lifelong skills," he says.

Some researchers have also found that participation in theater along with other arts is good for the development of the mind.

AStudy 2022conducted in elementary and high schools in Houston found that children who participated in arts education programs (not just theater) improved their writing skills, were more empathetic and engaged in school, and had fewer disciplinary problems. in a currentstudyIn a study of New York schoolchildren conducted by the New Victory Theater, children who watched and participated in performing arts over a period of years were more creative and optimistic than their non-watching peers.


Anna Cockrell, 25, is now a Nike-sponsored professional track and field athlete, but as a high school student in Michigan, she thrived in a program she described as "fundamentally competitive performance."

"I don't act on stage anymore, but I feel like the theater boy lives in me," said Cockrell, who recalled his standout work on Honk! for this reporter. from small. Both on stage and on the track, he said, "You have to believe so strongly in your talent when you're chasing that seemingly impossible dream."

Cockrell, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, added that his performance in major competitions was "significantly better" than the rest of the year. "I think a big part of that is because I love the audience," she added, saying it "flows directly from being a theater kid." Waiting for Life, a song from the musical Once on This Island" was her anthem during the 2020 Olympics, she explained. "As,Tell me why, why am I heresaid Mrs. Cockrell, paraphrasing the text. "I try to make it possible." Then he began to sing briefly.

Mrs Cockrell was not the only one to do so. Christopher Taylor, Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan sang a few bars"Brigadoon"Registered Tori Dunlap, a content creator and financial educator with more than two million followers on TikTok, joked that she still remembers all the colors of Joseph's incredible Technicolor dream coat, a pride she's proud of.fuse.

Hayes sang the lyrics to a musical he directed while a student at Hunter College High School in Manhattan.a debut work by a classmate named Lin-Manuel Miranda:"Pig. I'm just a fetal pig / I'm not very tall / Then why did you circumcise me in biology class? / Is it worth killing if I get a good grade?”

But even if theater children run silently through the whole world or at least choreograph loudly and elaborately, the whole world has not necessarily moved away from the cliché of diving.

Consider aHallofrom the Unpopular Opinion Reddit subcommunity, titled "Theatre kids are some of the most annoying people you'll ever meet, no matter their age."

"I don't think hating theater kids is an unpopular opinion," reads one representative comment.

Working on social media, Egner still regularly noticed "very bizarre, fully paid threads from people complaining that theater kids are annoying.".“High school never ends.

And being a theater child is a permanent condition. One we don't want to let go of...or stop telling people. By the way, did I mention that she was Dolly in Hello, Dolly!?

Madison Malone KircherShe is a reporter for The Times. She writes on the internet for Styles' desk. More about Madison Malone Kircher

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