As part of our series Age of Expression, teen artists from around Southern California share stories about the art they create and why they do it. Listen to the last installment featuring a young artist set on helping others find their purpose through music.
At the beginning of middle school, Monica Wilson thought theater was "weird."
"I thought it was wimpy. I was just trying to be cool," said Wilson, 13. " 'I said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ "
She only auditioned for a musical two years ago, as part of an after-school theater program at KIPP Scholar Academy in South Los Angeles, because she thought she wouldn't get in. The rising eighth grader who describes herself as "weird, fun, bossy, mean, and etc," thought she'd be able to escape doing after-school activities.
But, to her surprise, she secured a part and gained a love for acting.
"It really makes you get all that weirdness out," she said. "And you get to express it with other people and they’re weird, too. So it’s like weird wonderland! It showed me that being yourself is awesome."
Listen to her tell the story in her own words by clicking the blue audio player.
On auditioning for her first play in sixth grade
Me and my friend, we didn’t like after-school programs, we hated after-school programs. I did not know it was a musical. I didn’t know anything. So when we got in there, [the theater teacher] gave us a script, we practiced that about five minutes. It was weird because I have never performed in front of people. So I just said, "I’m just gonna be myself."
It was actually a good audition. I said, "We just came in here to get out of after-school program and I actually got a part!' [My theater teacher] said, I picked you because you're a very encouraging person. I can hear it all in your voice – very silly, dramatic at the same time, you have fun with what you do.
On the emotional rollercoaster of performance
Rehearsals, oh my gosh, such a drag. At the beginning of practice, you get excited. But doing it all over, you kind of lose the energy. I was actually going to give up. I said, "I don’t want to do this no more."
Then, the end of the play came. It was time to perform. It gives you energy to just share it with other people and show them what you’ve done for all that time, each practice, and what you’ve changed. I get butterflies in my stomach, I’m not gonna lie, but I try to suck it up.
My theater teacher says that, We don’t want people to think, Oh, that was cute. What she wants you to feel when you leave out there is, That was a really good play! Wow that was really great to see that play with those kids and they did it all my themselves and had to learn the script – that’s really amazing!
When we finished the play, "I said, this was a very good experience." So, I might as well try it again.
On her advice to other middle schoolers
You gotta try stuff to see if you like it – like, food, basically ... vegetables!
To someone who thinks that theater is weird or it’s very silly and you gotta act a certain way, no you really just gotta be yourself. Say, you don't like the role, you can sauce it up a bit.
You have to probably get out of your comfort zone and be your weird self that you are at home. You dance funny at home? You have to be that at theater.