My Summer Vacation…

I love theatre.  I have for a very long time.  I’m talking about live theatre not the movie variety.  Movie theatres are sanctuary of sleep as far as I’m concerned.  Seldom, if ever. I’m able to sit through a movie without being jolted awake from a flying elbow from one of my children. “Wake up and stop snoring…you’re embarrassing me” is often spoken in harsh tones.

My first foray into theatre was purely for utilitarian reasons.  We were told extra credit was available if we attended the production and brought back a program.  Initially, I went with the thought of grabbing the program and leaving. Instead, I found my seat and waited for the proceedings to begin.  Imagine my suprise when I found my attention going to the performers.  Imagine my shock when I started to follow the story.  Imagine my internal struggle when I started to cheer for certain characters.  What have I gotten myself into?

My first foray into acting came in the form of community theatre.  Another activity I accidently fell into.  Talk about jumping into the unknown with both feet!  After accepting the offer to participate in this venture I wondered if, in fact, I was completely nuts and worthy of being committed.  Maybe the guess work on my mental stability was an exercise in futility.

Some background for the uninitiated.  Community theatre allows everyone a chance no matter their theatrical background or lack thereof.  In our production there where some very talented and creative individuals who participated.  Instantly, I was intimidated and overwhelmed at the thought of measuring up to these local thespians.  Experience, even a very little, makes much difference in these venues. 

I’m by nature very comfortable in front of a crowd. Actually, my ego tells me to seek out opportunities that offers such a stage.  Some people would call me a ham.  Somehow I’ve managed to miss live theatre as such an opportunity.  When I first had to read my lines in front of the assembled cast…I froze up.  I couldn’t get my breath, my heart was racing, I stumbled over the reading like the first time I read from my French textbook. 

Kind looks of acceptance from the cast look back at me.  Patience and understanding comes back to me from the director.  I try again only to somehow manage a worse effort.  “Ummm,  Sorry.” No one acts impatient or angry.  All I sense is encouragement.  I try and fail again.

It’s in moments like these that character is truly tested.  As a strong, tough, macho guy I could have simply stood up and stated, “This is stupid!” and left keeping my bogus pride in check.  As a traveler of life, I felt the need to fight the urge to walk away and work through this mess that I now was knee deep into.

I am told that my character will need to dance during an emotional scene with my stage (and real life) daughter (remember that stuff about not quitting?)  I’d have preferred dancing  be assigned to a more nimble man who could perform with great ease and grace.  I struggle with the Macaranna.  Really, me dancing in public during an emotional scene will destroy any attempt to make this anything but slapstick.

Different performers came to me and spoke words of enthusiasm and motivation.  Each said I was doing a great job and picking up the part really well.  When this was relayed to me I looked around first wondering if they had confused me with another.  Somehow it stuck that I didn’t completely suck at this and this allowed me to feel the freedom to release my inner being and become one with this character I was to portray.

There is a very Zen-like experience that occurs when one lets go of self to assume the personality of another.  This is the magic of theatre.  It’s a very transformative event that likens one to total freedom.  At this moment the ability to move, speak and react like another begins to unfold.  This was a very cathartic experience to a hayseed  like me.

I hear the introduction leading to my entrance…I’m sweating like a bricklayer.  My thoughts race through my lines.  I know how hard everyone has worked and really don’t want to disappoint the cast, crew or musicians.  Damn, I can’t go back.  I walk out to the sea of smiles and instantly feel a rush of warmth and confidence that both fills me up and covers me.  I see why people are so involved in theatre…this is a wonderful encounter, a moment to cherish.

By the way, I feel like I got a handle on the dancing.  The Waltz is actually quite lovely when you understand it.  Truth be told, I find myself waltzing around the house from time to time.   Somehow I was able to summon the emotional stength to bring the warmth of my character to life.  We never really know the depth of our resolve until we are tested.  If we never put ourselves in a position of challenge our capabilities are never tapped.

I met people during this show who have impacted me greatly.  I have made many new friends.  The words of encouragement, appreciation, and motivation will never be lost on me.  I am a better person for having participated. 

By the end of the run I was tired and worn.  But never lacked for want to perform just one more time.

Next year can’t get here quick enough.

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2 Comments

  1. mom said,

    October 13, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Fred would be proud of your waltz kiddo. This is one of those “I was there” so I really know things. I really didn’t expect much from a little home town theater – but REALLY enjoyed our “Night at the Theater”. We’ll be there next year if you will be.

    Love you.

  2. Jerry said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Regarding that last sentence: Good. I’ve got just the part for you. No waltzing, though. Sorry!


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