For “Great” Thoughts readers, this is another Plinky prompt..
It’s funny that this question should come up now. Last night, my wife, Alissa went to see a production of Anne of Green Gables while I stayed with the kids. In explaining where mommy was, I tried to describe what exactly a play is. In doing so, I thought back to my own experience on stage.
I’ve never been shy about public speaking or being up in front of people. I’m generally perfectly happy to shoot off my big mouth in just about any venue. Still, I’ve never been terribly interested in theater. Aside from a part in a church Christmas play in elementary school, I’ve never been much of a thespian. The one exception to that occured twenty years ago, a fact which I find more than a little disturbing.
It was my senior year in high school and I was part of the concert choir. In fact I was the tour committee chair. Naturally, we were headed for Washington DC (along with New York and Boston.) I had never had much interest in getting involved with with theater. The plays that I’d seen didn’t seem particularly compelling, and the theater kids seemed to dress all in black and seem overly dramaticin their behavior. At least that’s what I thought. It turns out, I knew nothing.
With the start of school came word that the school had somehow ended up with $10,000 to stage Fiddler on the Roof. As a full mainstage musical, the full range of the school’s arts programs was to be tapped. The lead actors would be in a sixth period drama class for the second semester. The fifth period play production class would be responsible for the sets, props and technical side of the production. The jazz band was tapped and augmented by students who had been in orchestra in one of our feeder junior highs to form the orchestra.
As for the choir, we, along with the junior high choir were to be the chorus and extras, and so we mixed our tour preparations with learning songs from Fiddler. That’s where I thought it would begin and end for me. I was wrong. You see, as a reliable male (of dubious vocal quality) who was willing to sing in public, I was in a bit of demand. The next thing I knew, I was Reb Mordcha, the innkeeper. I had lines. I had to sing…by myself at one point (a failed attempt to lead wedding guests in song to defuse tension). I had to dance and follow choreography…in a kick line. I had to wear a fake beard.
It was a great experience. I got to see theater from behind the proscenium arch. I got to improvise, even when I dropped my “wife” in a dance number during a real performance. I saw that those “theater kids” were nice, normal (well, such as normal is) high school kids just like me. Okay, I was never normal, but I think you get my point. I made friends and became part of a community that was planted on that stage, grew and flourished under the lights, to a bounty that was harvested over three glorious nights in May of 1991. Each show was packed, and for three nights, a bunch of high school kids became a theater company.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be in another play. I don’t know if i’ll ever taste spirit gum in my mouth. But I did once, and it was a great experience. I hope my kids try it at least once.