Yes, And! (You’re A Rockstar)

“WOOF. Smells like teen spirit!” are my first thoughts entering the room.

Which couldn’t be more accurate. It’s midday in a cramped middle school classroom. On a San Diego September afternoon. During the Santa Ana heatwave.

Inhale too deeply and you might catch a case of puberty.

But the thought is quickly dispelled as the 30 bright-eyed and SQUIRRELY students file into their classroom. Some bound and prance, a few shuffle, there is a gaggle of giggling girls. And a final straggler, meandering and moseying before finally landing into a desk seat — an expression of total bewilderment as though his arrival was an accidental stumble then discovery. Perhaps it was.

Today I’m a Teaching Artist. A professional actor visiting for a teaching residency in playwrighting.

Or, in other words, fresh meat. Entertainment. A zoo animal exhibit.

The school year hasn’t been in session that long, but already a sense of drudgery has set in, thus anything out of the norm is exciting. After-lunch English period has its limits.

An unannounced surprise, myself and my colleague are A Spectacle.

Seats taken, the students and I eyeball each other. As announcements are made, the staring contests range from overt to shy, casual to “keep-it-cool” but everyone is curious.

I sit there and wonder, “was I *ever* that little??” Reality check. You still ARE that little, Maelyn. But each face I see is so young, unassuming. Their eyes are unguarded, fully open, and so brilliantly receptive and eager. This room is magic.

Smells like possibility.

Smells like potentiality.

Smells like YES, and!

(That’s a term and idea we use a lot in theatre and improv.)

As the class hour continues we perform short plays for them. We run through theatre games, preview what their next few weeks of this module will look like. Excitement builds. The energy in the space comes ALIVE. Eagerness, anticipation…there is electricity in this room.

The plays, the kids say are THE BEST, they’ve ever seen. The actors, are the MOST talented, FUNNIEST, they’ve ever seen. They can’t believe we have been in movies, commercials, studied in different countries…written plays that were actually performed too. We are, like, SO COOL.

For a few hours we are ROCKSTARS. Last year I was asked for my autograph :)

But the real reason I share this? Not because I have some egoic need to feel like a superstar or need major validation, but because these kids taught me something super and something major.

See, as we’ve been eyeballing each other, looking each other, faces open, I recognized how often I’ve kept myself closed off in the real world. Eyes averted, heart closed off. Energetic boundaries. But in this sacred space, yeah sacred, these students have invited, cajoled, even demanded me to be fully present. 100 percent in the moment and giving. And matched me 100 percent. My heart is blasted open.

It took .03 seconds for me to fall deeply in love with every student I met. Really love and care and celebrate their journey and trajectory as human life-livers and students and artists. How could you not with such vulnerable and giving beings? Their hearts are so open. I can’t WAIT to watch their writing develop, to cheer on their successes and witness that moment when they identify themselves as worthy and as veritable CREATORS and earth-shakers.

It was in that exchange — me seeing and loving them (and whether they knew it or not), me thinking that THEY were each and every one a total ROCKSTAR, that they felt permission to give that same amount of love right back.

When you start to see everything around you as a miracle in motion, it just gets mirrored and reflected straight back. Fun game, right? So yeah, the rockstar in me sees and crazy-adores the rockstar in you!

Standing ovations, spitballs, and all.

YES, And…A+ for everyone,

❤ Maelyn

P.S. Interested in hearing more about YES, and? In a few weeks I’m offering some workshops called “Acting for Non-Actors” Always wanted to perform but been too scared? Or want to finesse your public speaking skills? Interested in developing your audition skills or just getting your toes in the water? Let’s chat! I’d love for you to join the fun!