Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Show Wrap Up

Okay. I was really bad at posting in January. Really bad.  I'll try to do better in February.  But I wanted to share something with you before the month was up.  Something that reminds me why, even though I'm struggling with money doing theatre, why I do it anyway.

Closing night of my last show, my sixteen actors sat down backstage in the green room, a half hour before their places call.  I stood nearby, giving them time periodically, intensely curious about what they would say and willing immediately to step away if they made the slightest indication they wanted privacy.  They shared in popcorn style.

"You guys are the best friends I've ever had."

"I'm going to miss you."

"I didn't like the show going in, but you made it better.  This has been an amazing production."

"It was my senior year and I just wanted to do one last play, but you've made me want to do more."

"I've struggled with depression this year and coming to rehearsals. To you guys is what made it worth it for me. You reminded me what it's like to be happy."

"I never had any friends in school.  Not close ones anyway, but when I was with you I was always accepted.  Always safe.  We bickered, but we still always loved each other."

"I've always had friends.  More friends than I knew what to do with, but I never actually connected.  Now I know what that's like."

"I was twelve coming into this show and I thought I would be so out of place.  I thought you would think I was arrogant.  That I didn't know my place.  That I was too young.  But you never did.  I always felt like I belonged.  I always knew that I could trust you and that you would help me.  And that you would be my friends.  My middle school is so unbearable that I can't stand to be there, but coming here was what got me through last semester.  You kept me sane long enough so that I can transfer schools."

"You are why I do theatre."

I had been ready to be done with the show.  I didn't do a ton (other than preset) during the show and so I had been so ready to be done.  But after just listening to these kids, I didn't want to be anymore.  That cast didn't have any cliches, any outcasts.  They were a family.  I had always been under the impression that the kids were charismatic and popular with most people.  But, to listen to almost every single on of them, they were all people who had never felt comfortable at their school, even in their drama programs (which were more relaxed/causal than the show we just worked on).  I never realized that this show was special.

Why bring this up now?  The show closed a little bit over a week ago.  Well, today I had an actor stay after rehearsals and just talk to the music director and I.  At first it was casual about the style of the show and the lyrics, etc.  But gradually he began to open up.  He's a sophomore; a very talented sophomore.  He is easily as talented as the kids I mentioned above.  But there are so many age politics in high school (and to some extent, college) drama that he only got a middle-of-the-road part.  He mentioned wanting to maybe drop and the music director and I were stunned.

We talked to him about why and he just wanted a chance to sing.  I hadn't known before now, but the actor has ADHD, OCD, and verbal tourettes.  He's extremely well-adjusted, but also incredibly self-conscious.  And the reason he wants to go into theatre?  Because when he sings.  When he acts.  The ADHD, the OCD, the tourettes just don't matter.  They recede.  His mind isn't clouded.  He can stand centerstage and just belt out that song.  And that's what he wants.  Maybe he was a little disappointed about getting a smaller part, but he was more disappointed that he couldn't have that moment of clarity.  Of freedom.

So.  If you're ever wondering what theatre does.  What art does (both the people doing it and receiving it).  Please remember these kids.  The ones who just put themselves out there.  Who find a community and create a story that they can share.  I realize I'm up on my soap box right now, but I don't really care because moments like this really do remind me why I do what I do.

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