Reflection: “I am not a thespian.”


Connor Niszczak

A group shot from the 2019 Middle School Thespian Workshops, my first taste of "thespian-ism".

“I am not a thespian.”

I must’ve said it ten times in the span of just a few minutes.

It was the end of a 15 hour day, one year ago, at the Middle School Thespian Workshops last January. I was there to write an article after being “voluntold” to do it by former Thespian Troupe #5464 President and Knight Crier staff writer Sammi Stec.

So, I sat in on all of the workshops, took pictures, got quotes, and unapologetically fell in love with the Popcorn Dance (if you have no idea what this is, find the nearest theatre kid and make them demonstrate it for you…you’ll thank me later).

Before this night, I had seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I had a bunch of theater friends, but I had never before been involved in a NPHS Theatre/Thespians event.

As the night was ending, a number of thespians, mainly juniors Rebecca Gomes and Ali Coles, were belaboring the fact that I HAD to get more involved and come to the next monthly thespian meeting, known as a General Membership Meeting (GMM).

I thought they were off their rockers. I can not sing, can not dance, and have not acted in many years, so me, a thespian?? Unheard of! 

Thinking they were crazy was quite possibly the stupidest thing I have ever done. I was so naive in thinking that what my perception of a thespian was is in any way reflective of what being a thespian actually means.

The basic definition of the word thespian states that “you can use the word to describe something that is related to drama.”

You better believe that I am related to drama; both on stage and off.

Being a thespian does not mean I would ever have to belt out ABBA or deliver a Shakespearean monologue in front of a packed auditorium. I would never have to travel to a swamp, Greece, Anatevka, or colonial America. 

Now, to be clear, I was involved with The Addams Family and Legally Blonde at Penndale, but I thought that high school theatre was just another level that I didn’t know if I could handle.

So, after the Middle School Workshops, I was convinced to attend the February GMM, and it clicked right away. I could tell right away that everyone there was a little crazy, but they were my kind of crazy.

“From that day forward, I was hooked. Getting involved in NPHS Theatre is the best decision that I’ve ever made.”

And on my one year “thespianiversary”, I’m looking back on how a decision as basic as attending a meeting has fundamentally changed my high school experience.

The obvious is that I got to be a part of Mamma Mia!, one of the most successful musicals in the nearly fifty years of NPHS Theatre. I was back in the sound booth with now-alum Sam Santangelo, and got to see every night of the show, and at least five more times in rehearsals. I was obsessed with Mamma Mia before it was even announced as the spring musical, so I only fell further in love with the show having it be my entire life for weeks.  And the Mamma Mia surprise the company did for retiring English teacher Sue Cassel is a moment that I will truly never forget.  

A few weeks after Mamma Mia!, I was inducted into the International Thespian Society. There are very few clubs at North Penn that are a part of a larger international organization, so getting that experience was truly special. And you better believe that I carry around my Thespian ID card in my wallet wherever I go.

Without a doubt, the greatest thing I have gained from theatre is a second family. Outsiders tend to say that theater kids are in a “cult”, and they are absolutely correct. But we are not a creepy, Manson-esque cult. We are a group of the most dedicated people in North Penn High School, who spend weeks and months preparing the two shows that the community sees each year. 

Those first few months of sophomore year, I didn’t really have “my people.” I hadn’t found my niche yet. Theatre gave me that. At first, I did still feel like an outsider, and I felt like “the reporter”, since I had covered Workshops and BC/EFA, but as soon as Mamma Mia started, it felt like I had known everyone for years.   

I have made friends for life; Karly Buchanan, Chris Lee, Livi Greco, Melanie Tanis, Rojin Mortazavi, the Procopios, Sammi Stec, and Tori Quinn, just to name a few.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s not all showtunes and singing kumbaya. Just like a real family, sometimes I never want to see these people again…especially when we are with each other non stop the week before a show. That feeling usually lasts a good ten minutes, then I put on my Broadway playlist and want to be right back in that auditorium. 

A lyric from “For Good”, from Wicked, sums about how I feel about my theater besties.

“But I know I’m who I am today, because I knew you….because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”