Who would choose on purpose to skip or rush through dinners for weeks on end, get home after 10 p.m. every night exhausted and ready to flop in bed, collect so many bruises that you don’t know where they start and end or where they came from, ask your spouse to do all the childcare for a month, miss your loved ones, throw family dinners out the window, abandon the laundry and the housekeeping, and feel exhausted most of the time? And then when it is over, subject yourself to the blues where you feel malaise and exhaustion for days to come? The answer: your neighbors and friends who love community theater. Putting on a production takes an inordinate amount of work, but it’s worth it.
Having just finished Saline Area Players’ production of The Carol Burnett Show, I asked myself, and my fellow castmates and crew…. Why in the world do we do this? I mean there must be a reason that we put ourselves through this incredible ordeal. The answers I got were rich and thoughtful.
One says “I have found that I am rarely happier, more comfortable, more truly myself than when I get to sing, act, and (only when necessary) dance on stage. There is something akin to magic when cast and crew come together, bringing a piece of their hearts and souls to the stage. Something comes alive among us - and having the audience there magnifies it. It is as though a whole world is created there, and having a hand in bringing that about feels like nothing else I've ever done. And when it is finished, we each get to take a tiny piece of that world - and of each other - home with us. My life is immeasurably enriched by those I've met. I wouldn't trade such a treasure for any amount of mere earthly wealth.”
Another says “I find theater folk to be incredibly generous people. We give of ourselves emotionally and physically to people we hardly know, or don’t know at all, in order to truly bring our characters and their stories to life. We have to put every bit of ourselves in front of people…We give our audience and fellow cast members whatever we can to tell the story and make ‘em laugh (or cry, whatever the case may be.) So, I’ve always found it a pleasure to work with theater types, present company, especially, included! … Working together on a production, while often exhausting, is a worthwhile way to spend one’s time when the outcome means that [many people] get to be taken away from whatever life is throwing at them into a place of joy!”
In answering the question, “why do I act?”, another says… “Some people pretend to be someone they're not for at most a few hours a day…And they bound it by saying, ‘Rehearsal or performance happen at this time and the stage is in this place.’ Other people live almost all of their waking hours pretending to be someone they're not. Which of these is more healthy?”
And another says… “For me it gives me the opportunity to use skills that I have little opportunity to employ at home. It allows me to spend time with some people that I know and enjoy, and to meet new ones that I never would have met otherwise. I enjoy the camaraderie, the gatherings after, the parties - it all adds spice to my normal mom/wife role. …. I grow as a person through the course of a production - I am able to be more of an individual instead of a person filling a role (mom, etc.), no matter how important the role may be, and I can take pride in what is accomplished. I enjoy being part of something that gives so many people pleasure.”
Another comment…. “Being a part of these theater shows (on or off stage) feeds a part of me that nothing else can. It's not the attention or applause (which are great), but the whole process, constant changes, quick thinking, and immense creativity that physically and mentally can be a drain or a stimulant! Now that the show itself is complete, there is an emptiness that can only be filled by the next opportunity.”
These responses were amazing… And, finally, I asked myself my own answer to the question I posed? From the behind-the scenes angle, I like bringing people together…perhaps it is my social worker background or my age in life or my upbringing, I like mentoring people and watching those individuals who have an interest, develop new skills, grow, and find a niche. It excites me. And I love the closeness that comes with many people working together for the same goal. And there is a thrill for me in seeing my publicity efforts go out and create a buzz. And for the onstage part, I love the challenge of taking on a totally different character, which is more interested than my real self. And, I’ll willingly admit that I love making people laugh… it gives me a high that nothing else can.
Another reason … “It’s fun!” There are many reasons that we do theater. There have to be, to balance the huge time commitment, the bruises, and the suspension of “real life” for awhile. But it is worth it!
If anyone is interested in seeing what opportunities are available for you in Saline, check out the Saline Area Players website at www.salineareaplayers.org. And, if you’re so inclined, leave a comment on this blogpost about why you do community theater.