Andrea Romaldi, Director of the Playwriting program, graduate's speech, May 1st, 2022.
Every year at this time I reflect on why I do what I do. Why make theatre? Why teach theatre? This year, the answer to the question is: Theatre makes me feel whole. Theatre makes me feel like a complete human being, and I suspect the reason that I am drawn to it and compelled to do it is because in my young life I often felt inhuman. I was bullied a lot, I was misunderstood, I was left out, and I needed to imagine a new world, a better world – one where I felt human. Theatre was my way of doing that. For me, theatre could make things new.
Theatre is a project of hope. But there’s a shadow side to everything – or at least everything that is in any way interesting or meaningful in life. The hope – and joy, and zest for life – that theatre offers lives in tension with the truths it shows us about ourselves and our times. And some of those truths are ugly and shameful. Yet, even when theatre confronts me with these truths, it still leaves me feeling more human, more whole than before.
Theatre – the best theatre – asks us to see people as they really are, not as we wish them to be. And while we might see things we don’t like, the decision to see people, to see the world, as we actually are is a compassionate one. It means that we can stand with our fellow human beings and bear each other’s imperfections and not turn away from each other. We choose to see, and in not wishing the ugliness away, we accept the humanity at the heart of it. It’s a radical act of love, really. And it’s hopeful. If you can see the world for what it really is, you have a chance of making something new.
Graduates, I hope you don’t mind hearing my reflections. Over the course of your career, you will have to find ways to sustain yourself and your work. Remember that what we do is worthwhile. Keep trying to discover for yourself why that is. Your reasons will change moment-to-moment as you grow and change, but all that means is there are as many reasons to pursue theatre as there are moments in your life.