Storycatchers Theatre and Sharing Who I Truly Am:
An Interview with Jacob Clinkscales
By Ashlyn Wheeler
When Jacob joined Teens Together at the age of 13, he was one of the youngest members in the ensemble. Today, he has just ended the summer serving as the Teens Together 2016 Summer Touring Ensemble’s Stage Manager and Teaching Artist. Learn more about Jacob in his interview with Program Manager Ashlyn Wheeler and the accompanying photo gallery: from his first experience with Storycatchers Theatre to his new role as a Teaching Artist and soon-to-be college freshman.
When did you first join Storycatchers?
I joined Storycatchers in seventh grade in the winter of 2011, when I was thirteen.
A friend of the family told me about the Teens Together playwriting program and I thought it would be cool to try out. I had no idea how much was in store for me.
What was it like your first time working with Teens Together?
In the Teens Together playwriting program, I was very standoffish in the beginning. Writing was not my strong suit. I typed slowly and was very insecure about sharing any of my writing. I wasn’t used to the intimacy of a small group giving me their undivided attention, especially when I had to read aloud. I didn’t even know that the story we had to write had to be a true story. I went in wanting to write fantasy. It made me uncomfortable that I had to share my life. But that changed in time. By April, when we performed the staged reading of our personal stories, I had come out of my shell and found out I feel most alive onstage.
That next summer I participated in the Teens Together Summer Touring Ensemble for the first time. I had never been in a play before. I was so surprised when I got one of the main roles. That was the summer when I realized I wanted to be a part of theater for the rest of my life.
What has changed for you over time as an ensemble member?
Over time, I naturally gained a sense of leadership in the ensemble setting. The longer I’d been a part of the Teens Together program, the more I knew and the more I was able to do. I was asked to be a peer leader a few years ago, and that’s when my role really started to change in the group. Being a peer leader gave me the opportunity to lead by example and pass on what I learned in the program to new members. I also grew artistically through this. Stage presence became second nature to me. Because of that, I was given the opportunity to be a role model not only in Teens Together, but also in the Fabulous Females and Changing Voices programs. I learned how much my positive influence can have on people.
What has the experience been like working as a Teaching Artist and Stage Manager?
This summer, 2016, I worked as the Teens Together Summer Touring Ensemble’s Stage Manager and Teaching Artist. It was so different than being a member of the ensemble.
It’s been a great learning experience for me. I’d been used to just writing down my own blocking for the show. Stage managing required me to become a better multi-tasker. I learned to have my eyes on several places at once. There is a lot more that goes into being a staff person than I realized. I quickly learned that I had to do more than lead by example; I had to actually teach. I discovered that even though I knew exactly how to play games, do certain jobs, and so on, when it came to explaining those things to others, it was an all-new experience. I wanted to get better at that this summer, and I did. Mr. Edmund, who I’ve worked with before and who directed our show this summer, taught me a lot about being a teaching artist, and throughout the season I gained ‘teacher instincts.’ I would ask myself questions like: ‘How can I best support the members of the ensemble?’ or ‘What would be the best way to explain this game, acting technique, job?’
I often went home thinking about the individual members of the program, their behaviors, strengths and weaknesses, and what they needed to help them be successful. As an ensemble member I didn’t think too deeply about any of that. Serving as a staff member really taught me to analyze situations and recognize growth in other people.
What has been the most rewarding part about your experience working with Storycatchers Theatre?
Seeing people change and grow into adulthood, maturity, and become great performers. Now I find myself specifically thinking about members of the Changing Voices Ensemble like Chey. She has come so far. Or like Erik, a Teens Together ensemble member. I’ve seen him becoming more mature every season. That’s what really makes me happy inside, knowing that people are being changed for good.
What lessons have you learned?
I learned that if you stay consistent with a strong work ethic so many doors will open up for you, and that sharing your story, your voice, opinions, ideas, and experiences truly matters.
I am always thinking about how much of an influence this program has had on me. If it were not for Teens Together, I would not have found my passion for performing. I definitely would not have gone to ChiArts for high school. I would not have had the opportunity to share my story and properly deal with all that I was going through. I would not have chosen the career path of Arts Administration. I would not have met so many amazing youth and teaching artists! The people I’ve encountered in Storycatchers have shaped me and inspired me to be the best I can be. And to make a difference.
Everything great in me has been cultivated thanks to this program. I will always keep myself connected to Storycatchers. Wherever I go, I will always bring a piece of it with me to share with others.
Because of the work I have done with Storycatchers, I made a promise to myself that whatever job I have in the future will be aimed at bettering society. If I’m not saving lives, changing people for good, or uplifting broken spirits, then that career is not for me.
If it were not for Storycatchers, I would have never been able to share who I truly am. And I am better for it.
Jacob will be attending Santa Fe University of Art and Design this fall to study Arts Administration.