But, that being said, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m glad I did it. Colin is glad he did it, and Katie is thrilled that she did it. It’s been fun getting to know people we either didn’t know before or only knew at a distance. It’s been fun exercising our rusty skills, doing things we hadn’t done in years, if ever. Yes, it’s even been fun “dancing”…though I never thought I’d say that a few weeks ago. I actually found myself thinking, “What? I was worried about this?”
One of the joys of doing live performance is, of course, the crowd’s reaction. When the crowd is more responsive, it gives us, the performers, more energy. It was in the third performance (out of six) that I discovered this. The crowd laughed more, they clapped more, they radiated energy…and we were exponentially more “tuned in” to our performance when they showed us how much they enjoyed it. It was so fun! “They like us, they really like us!”
I’m only on stage for three songs, though I have backstage duties during the rest of the time. In fulfilling these duties I have learned several things. 1) After setting down Gaston’s chair (in the dark) exit stage LEFT…that way you don’t bump into the Silly Girls (who are also entering in the dark). 2) When your husband warns you that your flower cart – which has sat in the corner of the family room for years doing nothing – will never be the same again after its debut as a bookseller’s cart, BELIEVE HIM. (No, acting hasn’t gone to its head, but its wobbly wheel is going to force it into an early retirement.) 3) You must UNTIE BELLE’S LACES ALL THE WAY if you’re going to get it over her head and microphone pack in the two and a half minutes you have to redress her for the ballroom dancing scene. 4) Always have fingernail polish in your costume bag for those untimely runs in your black “Villager #2” stockings. 5) When you see your husband laughing until he cries – laughing like you haven’t seen him laugh in years – just sit back and enjoy it. This is good. This is part of our developing story. 6) If you’re going to buy a “prop cheese” from the actual grocery store, be sure that there’s a fridge you can keep it in between performances, otherwise it will look and smell more like Roquefurt than Colby Jack.
One other thing I have learned: if your director asks you, the night before the first performance, to do the scream in the mob scene where everyone first sees the beast in the mirror, don’t underestimate the power of a good Faye Wray scream. I didn’t know I could scream. I have avoided screaming for many years. In fact, when I was in 4th grade and played the part of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, I had to ask another girl to do my death scream. I’m not a screamer, but I grimaced (in character) and obeyed when he asked me to. Well, apparently, now I have a reputation. I cannot tell you the number of people who have said, “You do a great scream!” Who knew?!
We had an evening off last week and Colin put on The Music Man (apparently we’re now all about the musicals) and an interesting thing happened while we watched. Lucy and Katie began to dance around the room, they were dramatic, they were expressive, they were acting. I think – and I’m only just now realizing this – that we’ve watched less television since all this has happened, too. There are other things to do…better things…things like dressing up in outfits that trip the wearer (sending them into fits of laughter), and wearing crazy hats, and singing at the top of our lungs while roasting hot dogs in the back yard.
Another thing I enjoyed was the multi-generational aspect of community theater. It’s been fun to work with the “little girls” (“We aren’t ‘little,’” they insist). And it’s been fun to work with…well, okay, I’m like almost the oldest performer there, so nevermind about that contrast.) But it’s been especially fun to work with the high schoolers. I haven’t spent much time around high schoolers in the 23 years since I’ve graduated and there are certain things I forgot about. Energy. Shyness. Energy. Self-consciousness. Talent. And did I mention energy?
It’s funny, performing. You do things you never knew you could do. You gain confidence. You gain perspective. You gain friends. Yes, it’s possible that you gain aches and pains from the granny boots you have to wear that used to fit you before you had children but which decidedly DON’T fit you any more…but hey, those things are temporary. They’re forgettable. So forgettable that, it’s possible, I’d do something like this again someday. Especially if there’s screaming involved.
So now my boots have been tossed in the back of the closet where they belong, my Villager #2 tights with the red finger-nail polish “patches” have been thrown away, Lucy has her fake vegetables back because I no longer have to pretend to buy them, and all my kind friends no longer have to avoid answering the phone because I won’t be bugging them to watch Lucy and Ian during rehearsal and/or performances any more. (A HUGE thanks to everyone who was willing to take them for us!) Nor will I be bugging everyone I see to, “Get your tickets today!”
But there’s one thing that isn’t done: I’m still singing the songs in my head.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, I never hit that high note again. Not once.
QUESTION: Have you ever done community theater and what was your experience?