New skills I have learned from East Theatre


Lauren, as Harry, sang and played the guitar in Mamma Mia.

Jenna Ortega, who starred in the 2022, Tim Burton, Netflix Series, Wednesday, learned German, Fencing, the Cello, Archery, and Boxing for her role as the lead. As actors we sometimes find that our characters need skills we have never used before, like Ortega never touching a Cello before her role in Wednesday

Even in high school theater, that happens to student actors. I have been in Glenbard East theater for four years now, and I’ve picked up various skills that I’ll probably be using for the rest of my life. I’ve learned ASL (American Sign Language), guitar, and basic construction skills. 

In the fall of 2021, I earned the lead role in the play Edge of Peace as Tuc, a character who is deaf and doesn’t speak at all. For the three months of rehearsals, Mrs. Weidner, a professional ASL interpreter, and Mr. Wujcik, who is deaf and tutors ASL at DePaul University, taught me ASL and helped prepare for the stage. 

Lauren, as Tuc in Edge of Piece doing ASL.

Throughout rehearsals, there was an ensemble of cast members who spoke my lines and helped interpret the ASL I was performing. Even now, I use my ASL skills for my work life and carry on basic conversations with deaf and hard-of-hearing people. 

That same year, I was also scenery crew head for both productions of The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind where I helped design and construct the set. 

When I first received the role, I barely knew how to use the large power tools and machinery at the East Theatre scene shop. Not being afraid to ask for help, I had colleagues teach me how to use the drills, and power tools like the chop saw, table saw,  jigsaw, wall saw, hole saw, and many more.

Between growing up with a father in the construction industry and working to build bold and beautiful sets for theater, I developed an interest in design and want to major in architecture in college.

In the fall of 2022, I was cast for the role of Harry Bright in the musical Mamma Mia. For the role, Harry had several songs to sing but one specifically had him play the guitar live on stage. At first, they had another person play the guitar for me because they thought I couldn’t do it myself, but I proved them wrong.

Before this role, I had no guitar experience whatsoever. I asked the Glenbard East guitar teacher, Mr. Fawkes, to write guitar chords that would be good for a beginner guitarist. Afterwards, I spent night after night practicing the guitar at home and memorized the chords to play them on stage.

After two months, I finally got the chords down for the song. Even now, long after the show, I play the guitar and write silly songs with my friends. 

Between ASL, construction, and guitar, theater has taught me many skills over the years. These were skills that were tough to learn but only made me stronger.