This blog post may be a little different from the norm. I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to throw in some chipper theatrical woes from the week or dig up a terrible pun to win a decent chuckle from my readers. It’s not that I’ve had a change of heart or lost my less-than-decently humorous touch, but sometimes life intervenes and a somber moment becomes the priority.
Theatre was my primary focus in high school. Though I dedicated the majority of my time to my academics, the hours I spent in the theatre nearly exceeded the time I spent with my textbooks and endless pages of notes. Theatre was how I relieved all the stresses associated with the rigorous academic schedule I followed, how I developed as a creative thinker, and, overall, how I conducted myself in the world. It was my social sphere and, most importantly, it was my home. The people I met through theatre in high school did not all become my best friends, nor did we keep in touch as each of us graduated, but they were ultimately still family to me. We helped each other grow, laugh, and become better artists. We banded together in times of hardship and kept each other sane, even if we hadn’t had a conversation in several months or even years.
This past week, one of these family members tragically passed away, decades before her time.
Angela Mathew was what I would call a force of nature. Athlete, actress, speech and debate royalty, devilishly smart. But beyond her accomplishments, she was unwittingly passionate and kind. We shared many moments of hilarious and delirious laughter, from covering ourselves in layers of stage dirt during a production of Urinetown to impersonating dinosaurs in the most ridiculous fashion.
However, this is not a eulogy. Though what happened was unforeseen and unpredictable, the shock of losing someone so close in age to myself who was such an integral part of my high school career made me realize the importance of the theatre community as a whole. It seems wildly appropriate that RENT opened here at Tufts this past weekend, a show built upon the love and loss of fabricated families. The characters in RENT persevere and endure, keeping their loved one’s memories tucked away in the chambers of their heart. Though many people have issues with the structure and songwriting of the show, the undying message of survival cannot be ignored. RENT is a story about young people for young people about the struggle of living, even if the AIDS epidemic is no longer relevant to our immediate environment. In the end, it’s about community, loving as much as possible while you still can, and expressing that love in every facet of life.
Angela loved life, from what I could tell. Though she graduated two years before me and we lost touch, it was evident that she embodied the essence of the love displayed in RENT, demonstrating passions for the arts, sciences, and for camaraderie. And, like the characters in RENT, I have to accept this past week’s events and remember that this creative family I’ve discovered – both in New Mexico and at Tufts – is a community of support, love, and a conglomerate of artists, both in life and death.
If I have learned anything from theatre in the past eight years, it’s to “measure your life in love,” as Angela and the characters of RENT so perfectly exemplified. Art is precious, and the family that comes along with it is perhaps one of the greatest side effects ever encountered. I never took for granted the connections I’ve made through theatre. They push me to create, to love, and to live as fully and deeply as I can. Though Angela and I grew apart these past two years, she was one of the many people that have made me better through our shared passion for performing, whether it was on stage or in a speech and debate tournament.
Theatre should hold a mirror up to nature and humanity, as the dear Danish prince suggests. However, theatre creates humanity and for that, I am eternally grateful.
(This post is dedicated not only to Angela Mathew, but also to my expanding theatrical family, who continue to support not only me, but as well as each other. Thank you for everything.)