University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Gleeks: Where Have They Gone?

Ceylan Aktürk

ByCeylan Aktürk

Apr 16, 2024

Ah, theatre kids. You might have heard about or known theatre kids before! Maybe you even were one of them once? I guess you can picture a group of teenagers who think they are the main characters and are always ready to leave class to break into a spontaneous dance routine. But where have they gone? As a former theatre kid myself, let me take you on an exploration into the world of the stereotypical theatre kids.

So, what exactly is a theatre kid? I want to start by speaking of this popular meme that says, “We’re … Of course we …” I recently saw a theatre kids’ version on TikTok. The video consisted of a bunch of high school theatre kids saying, “We’re theatre kids. Of course, we only get four hours of sleep a day; of course, we are going to sing in the hallway, and of course, we have dyed hair.” It sounds pretty much like the stereotypical theatre kid, right? 

Then, let’s talk about the stereotypes. Theatre kids are usually labelled as having attention-seeking, flamboyant personalities that thrive on drama both on and off stage. I can definitely say that some of us were emotionally neglected, validation-seeking kids, undoubtedly contributing to the already existing stereotypes. As a middle child, I was constantly seeking validation, and theatre was a vehicle that I used to receive praise and approval; so I could easily relate to the stereotypes.

There is also this stereotype that theatre kids have an in-depth knowledge of musicals, leading us to the origin of the stereotype that became mainstream with Glee in 2009. Glee was all about a high school show choir that sang Broadway and pop music. It was the realisation of every theatre kid’s fantasy! The characters captured everyone’s passion and drama, from Kurt’s theatrical genius to Rachel’s stunning performances. Everybody aspired to be a member of the Glee Club – dominating tournaments and rising to fame. In a way, Glee gave a voice to loud and proud theatre kids. The show spoke to theatre kids’ dramatic spirit and love of performing. So, pop culture, including TV shows like Glee and the recent Mean Girls musical movie, have affected stereotypes as they exaggerate theatre kid persona , yet revealing the complex layers and nature of them.

The stereotypes aren’t entirely off base, though. We theatre kids really do stick together like glue! Those little groups were super diverse too – every kind of person you can think of was part of the crew. I know people believe theatre kids were all flashy extroverts, but some of us were introverts who used theatre to come out of our shells. Like me! Yep, I was a very introverted kid who did theatre to make friends and get help with self-expression. It was the best decision ever. Theatre kids just got each other, even with our different personalities.

And let me tell you, being a theatre kid required some serious dedication. I’m talking about spending hours after school rehearsing; learning lines on weekends; sacrificing pretty much all your free time. For us introverts, it was even harder to put ourselves out there! But we persevered because we loved it so much. There was a great deal of emotion, as well as off-stage drama…

Teenagers nowadays have access to new platforms for their performative creativity, such as YouTube and TikTok. However, theatre is still one of my favourite memories from school, even if we’ve grown up and moved on – nothing truly captures the magical sense of being the centre of attention. After all, once a Gleek, always a Gleek!

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