What Theatre Means To Me: Nicole Ackman

Our new blog series celebrates the personal meaning of the cultural and creative industries to people, from industry professionals, students and general audiences. This month, writer & content developer Nicole describes how theatre is an integral part of her personality, and how it has informed her life and career.

My love of theatre first started when I was seven years old and saw my favorite movie “The Lion King” brought to life with puppets and actors in London’s West End. In the nineteen years since then, there are many moments that stand out. My first time performing in a school play. Having a standing room ticket for an anniversary performance of “Les Miserables” with my favorite actor playing Jean Valjean. Seeing “The Ferryman” on Broadway after having seen it in London. Giving a standing ovation to the closing night of the musical “The Grinning Man,” crying and being completely aware of the fact that the feeling I was having is one that I want everyone to be able to experience and the reason that I want to help make and promote theatre. 

Theatre feels as much a part of who I am as being an older sister or having a September birthday. Nothing soothes my soul like being in a theatre. I grew up loving theatre with my parents taking me to touring shows and buying me Broadway Kids CDs. I’m surprised I didn’t wear out our VHS of the “Oklahoma” film. When I started taking part in school plays in high school, it seemed like I had found my home. My castmates became my friends and I learned what it meant to feel a part of a team for the first time. When I went to college, I bonded with people over watching filmed productions and singing musical theatre ballads as we got ready to go out to parties. 

When I moved to London for graduate school, I was lucky enough to get an internship in fundraising at my dream theatre. Knowing that I was even a tiny part of bringing such incredible art to life meant more to me than anything I’d ever done before. I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a theatre reviewer in London, New York, and Raleigh and it thrills me to know that I’m helping get people excited about theatre and steering them towards great productions. 

I always say that theatre has saved my life and while it’s partially me being a dramatic theatre kid, there’s also truth to the statement. It has brought some incredible people into my life and given me a sense of purpose. Certains shows have seemed to enter my life at the right time with the exact message that I needed.

Quarantine has been a difficult time for all people who love theatre, especially as Broadway has just confirmed that it will remain shutdown through at least May of 2021. This is the longest I’ve gone without seeing a show in years and in the time that I’ve been in quarantine, I’ve missed shows I was scheduled to see in Raleigh, New York, and London. The industry is going through something it’s never experienced before and I’m seeing many who work in it have to make difficult decisions about whether to wait it out or find a new path. During the past months, I’ve turned to filmed theatre and livestream readings, often watching with friends over Skype. As I’m writing this, I’ve just finished watching a livestreamed performance of new content that a theatre production company has made during quarantine. It’s a reminder of all that I love about theatre and all that I can’t wait to return to once it’s safe again. 

For me and for many like me, theatre isn’t just a hobby or something that I like to go and see occasionally. It’s an integral part of who I am and how I understand the world around me. It’s a way that I’ve made and maintained friendships for over a decade. Seeing a fantastic play or musical that touches my heart and challenges my mind is as spiritual an experience for me as I’ve ever felt. Theatre reminds me of all that I love best about life. 

By Nicole Ackman

Nicole is a writer with Broadway World and NextBestPicture, and a Content Developer with Relative Scale. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @nicoleackman16