The Science of Theatre
''For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.''
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Equilibrium. Valency. Concentration. Reagents. Moles. These are just some of the words that I used in my everyday life – or what some of us would call our''past life'' prior to coming to be a student at the National Theatre School of Canada. I still remember the day I walked into my previous university’s chemistry department office to formally decline my offer of acceptance into the Masters of Science in Chemistry program, just weeks after defending my undergraduate degree chemistry thesis and finishing my Bachelors of Science [Honours] in Chemistry with Thesis.
This feels so long ago, yet also it feels like just yesterday. In reality, it was only just mid-2016 when I took the leap to a full-time theatre life. Summer had just begun, and most colleagues within my graduating chemistry class were busy planning their new chapters in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or graduate studies related to the degree we had just obtained. Meanwhile, there I was planning my upcoming internship placements at theatre venues for my upcoming one-year program to obtain my Certificate in Arts Management while I planned the rest of my transition over to taking on theatre professionally and full-time – such as applying to NTS. This was over three years ago. It is now the fall season of 2019 and I have just begun my third and final year of the Production Design and Technical Arts program; I could not be more excited about the future ahead of me in my field of theatre production, something that I had always wanted to pursue since my high school days as a technician.
As a chemistry graduate, I never thought that my previous formal education in a field completely different from the path I have chosen now would help me rather than hinder me. People are often fascinated when they discover my roots lie deep within the field of science, specifically with the three years that I worked in a university research lab under the guidance of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and professors who are national research chairs. I am grateful for the knowledge that I bring to the National Theatre School, which I have from my''past life''. Although my previous studies are not directly related to what I am learning now in the Production Design and Technical Arts program, there have been several instances when my chemistry degree really came in handy. Just this past spring, I had to look into different flameproofing retardants for specific types of set material for a school show for which I was the Production Manager and Technical Director. Even if a science background is not necessary for a technical director keeping their venue safe from hazards, the BSc[H] that I keep in my back pocket came in handy for my flame tests.
''Why did you switch from chemistry into theatre, out of all things'' is a question I often get asked. As if there couldn’t be a possible, logical explanation for the career choice that I made. As if I couldn’t have an interest in both art and science. As if I had to pick one or the other and exclusively stick to it for the rest of my life – a notion that I believe most people hold true; it is human nature to not want to start over. We seek comfort in the path we have chosen from the beginning, and fear judgment from those around us for thinking we have failed, or quit, or did not meet expectations. I urge others to remind yourself that you do not owe an explanation of your life choices to anyone. You are not a quitter, and you are absolutely not a failure. If anything, you are strong for acknowledging that you are unsatisfied where you currently are in life, and you are brave for defying societal expectations to take the step towards living a life that truly brings out your happiness, and a life that brings out the best in you.