My sophomore year of high school, I applied to Governor’s School for the Arts for a three-week intensive summer theater course. Other students from my school had participated in previous years; I have heard so many amazing stories from their experiences. I was in the car with my mom when the results came out. When I opened the letter, I was delighted to see that I was “on the waiting list”. My name was never called that summer, but it made me want to prepare as much as possible for next year’s audition.

The following year when the results came out, again while I was in the car with my mum, we read the results together – I had been accepted! One of the most beautiful memories of all time. I wished and prayed that time would pass so quickly since all I wanted was to be at GSA!

When day finally arrived, my parents and I headed to the Center College GSA campus. The number of people filling the streets was such a thrill bringing so much excitement! I had never been away from my parents for more than two days and had never attended a program like this…so I was incredibly excited for this new experience of meeting new people and sharing dreams theatrical!

After:GSA taught me how to connect with others, a lesson for theater and everyday life

Every day in my acting classes, we learned a variety of tools. The first day was the most memorable. We played the “game of hands”, where with a partner we had to study each other’s hands for five minutes without speaking. I remember being so nervous about it because I had just met this person and now I have to touch his hands without talking to him. Once we started doing it, it wasn’t as awkward as I thought. Our next step after the five minutes was to blindfold ourselves and walk around the room, grabbing people’s hands until we found our partners. After greeting many people, I finally found my partner’s hands, so we took off our blindfolds and hugged; It was a very authentic moment that I will always remember.

After:The Governor’s School for the Arts builds confidence in talent and a big world for big dreams

When I tell this story to people, I feel like they’re thinking “Now what kind of acting play is this?”, but despite learning a plethora of information at the GSA, this impressed me the most. It taught me how to connect with another person, which is one of the most important tools in the acting toolbox and in everyday life. During those 15 minutes of work, I developed a strong bond with my partner who stayed with us throughout my GSA experience. I even wrote a 10-minute solo performance during my senior year of high school called “Elmer’s Glue” about this new acting tool because it was such a distinct memory for me.

Not only did the GSA give me the theater training I still use to this day as a senior at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, but I learned to be in the moment. Living and being in the moment helped me form friendships at the GSA that I still have and helped me immensely in my acting education over the years. I still remember the good memories I created during those two weeks. Thank you, GSA, for giving me another chance.

Ava Panagopoulos is a senior at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She was a member of the Class of 2018 at Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.