Stay Young, Go Back to High School

“Dear Dave,” begins one imaginary letter from a fanciful reader named Feign Fictitio, “as the years go by, I keep getting older. That’s fine with me given the alternative, but I’m wondering if you have any advice on how to keep that youthful spirit.”

Dear Mr. Fictitio, the first rule is that everybody has to get older, but you can be immature forever.

Second, go back to high school. I mean go to some high school plays. The spirited performances of any high school production can rub off on anybody open to the idea.

I recently went to several musical performances at a community theater and local schools, and the close, personal setting make them fun to watch. They are not Las Vegas style productions, so if you’re satisfied only with high tech effects, flawless timing and crafted delivery, go to the local shows anyway. Learning to appreciate imperfections is part of a healthy outlook, and that alone may keep you young.

Besides, it’s easy to find something positive at any high school play. At a minimum, your $5 admittance goes to a good cause, your local high school. The students are participating in an activity that teaches discipline and responsibility, and they’re learning to have fun. High school theater and music programs are worthy of your support for that reason alone.

However, there are a few good singers in every show, so the entertainment is often surprisingly good. Besides, you can always get a laugh or two and take in the youthful, can-do spirit of all the performers. For the money, it’s a great deal.

“Dear Dave,” Mr. Ficticio wrote back, “it’s fun to watch, but I want to be in those shows, too.”

Great idea. That’s an even better way to stay young, and community theater is a good bet. They always need help and welcome new performers, stagehands and musicians. If you’ve never been part of a play, give it a try at least once, even if you work backstage moving scenery. It’s thrilling for everybody involved.

After planning and working on the show day after day for several months, after the dry runs, the rehearsals and the diligent practices, opening night arrives.

As curtain time approaches, the tension builds. Everybody gets more focused and runs through their parts in the dim corridors backstage. The props are positioned, the audio is checked and the seats are filled with a murmuring, bustling crowd. Players take their places. The lights go down. For a suspended moment it’s quiet. You hear the rustle of the slightest movements. The director gives the cue. Nothing beats the excitement of show time.

So, Mr. Fictitio, if you want to keep some of that youthful zest, go back to high school and see some shows. Get involved with community theater in your area. It’s a great way to stay young, and that’s the truth. I wouldn’t make anything up.