Here we ask members of our community to reflect on their experience with youth drama and discuss how it has impacted their life and career. In Volume 3, we hear from Interdisciplinary Artist & Community Arts Worker Zoe Tomaras, Lawyer Honey Debelle, and Actor & Healthcare Administrator Francisco Lopez.

By Zoe Tomaras (Interdisciplinary Artist & Community Arts Worker)

“I have always struggled with my capacity for strong emotions. Having been quite bullied for being overly sensitive, when I was 11-years-old my parents and I thought that studying performance would help give me the confidence in myself I severely lacked. I wasn’t shy, but I definitely didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere in particular.

Through this process, not only did I gain confidence, I found something much more worthwhile; a place that felt like home. Youth drama was key in helping me explore who I’d been, who I was, and who I wanted to become. Through learning to breathe life into characters, I learnt to breathe life into myself.

Whether it’s writing, directing, devising, or performing; creating gives me joy. Without being exposed to an outlet for my creativity at a young age, I have no idea where I’d be today, but I’m sure my life would be a lot less colourful.

Funnily enough, I never did grow out of being a very emotional person (and have now learnt to see it as an asset in a world that undervalues sensitivity), but I did learn to channel it into doing what I love.

I now work in youth theatre and community arts, and nothing could be more rewarding to me than creating and holding space for young people to find their own value as not only creatives, but human beings; just as they are.”

Zoe performing as Sasha in Play Without A Title (dir. Anthony Skuse) at AFTT, 2017

By Honey Debelle (Lawyer)

“I got involved in drama because my best friend started to take acting classes on Saturdays, and I did everything she did. We were 12. Then I fell in love with it, and the rest is history. 

Acting classes hugely influenced who I am and how I developed as a teenager. It exposed me to materials and scripts, ideas and ways of thinking that I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise – at least, not at that age. And it helped me meet other young people who were from different backgrounds and parts of the city. It dovetailed with my burgeoning love of English and literature and really set me on the path to becoming who I am today – with my rather elective interests and experiences. 

After studying at NIDA and then acting professionally for a number of years, I studied law and then pursued a career in crisis communications in New York. Though I don’t act professionally anymore, the years I spent working in the arts were incredibly formative – not to mention spectacular fun! Acting made me a curious and relatively fearless individual – my Saturday youth drama classes set me on a path to where I am today, and the skills I cultivated as a young actor have stood me in good stead for the various roles I’ve had in my academic and professional career.”

By Francisco Lopez (Actor & Healthcare Administrator) 

“I was in Grade 6 and our entire year level was loaded onto buses and shipped to the local theatre. All excursions were a great excuse to clown around with friends outside the classroom, but I was not prepared for what I was about to experience. We got filed into the auditorium, the lights went down, and before I knew it, Calamity Jane had blown in from the windy city and everyone around her roared with energy, joy and talent! I was sitting through my first piece of theatre, and the performers were none other than students from the high school I would be attending the following year. I was gobsmacked. Suddenly the fantasy and beauty that I loved in films was just an arm’s reach away.

Since then, drama, theatre and acting have been my way to learn more about myself and more about the world. The lessons have allowed me to play fascinating characters written by brilliant minds from across the globe. They have also helped me develop interpersonal and communication skills that serve me in my job as a healthcare administrator.”

Michael Booth for Secret House

Tell Us Your Story

We want to hear from YOU! Send your story on the topic of HOW YOUTH DRAMA CHANGED MY LIFE, and an accompanying photo, to

Not sure what to say? Here’s some ideas:

  • How did you get involved in drama?
  • How did drama it benefited you at the time / your development as a young person?
  • What you do now?
  • How you applied the skills or benefits of drama to your life as an adult and/or in your career?

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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