As I sit here running lines (actor speak for memorizing the script) for Act II of Greater Tuna, I reflect on the three decades since I first stepped on a stage.
I caught the acting bug in 1979 as a freshman at St. Charles Preparatory School in Columbus, Ohio. It was a special place: three shows a year, high production values, and a director, Doug Montgomery, who expected high professional standards from his student actors. Those years provided me with a strong foundation and discipline in the profession, but more importantly it instilled in me a love for working together with friends to create art.
That same sense of community was present as I worked towards my B.F.A. in Theatre at Ohio University. There was friendship, creativity, laughter, and a sense of purpose – not as a showcase for individual talents, but where actors, the production team, and audiences alike came together to learn more about themselves (the essence of theatre is, after all, to provide a “window to the world”).
I’m not exactly sure when it occurred, but sometime during my sixth or seventh year as a professional actor, I realized something was missing. The aspects I’d loved about those earlier days were gone (friendships, community, purpose, etc.), and were replaced by a sense of competitiveness, desperation, and a neurotic self-absorption within my fellow actors and myself that I found compromised my personal values. And, of course, I was completely broke even though I was working two jobs, one of them being “professional actor.” I’d simply wanted to act: to create real characters that honored the playwrights who created them within a community of actors who made their living working and growing together as artists and professional colleagues. Entities like that, I sadly found, were rare in the professional theatre world, and I had neither the knowledge, financial resources, nor the tenacity to create one from scratch. I walked away from my acting career in 1992, with the belief that if I were meant to do it again, the opportunity would make itself plainly known.
In the two decades since “retiring” from acting, I dabbled in the theatre from time-to-time, but also found a lot of fulfillment as a middle school teacher and, for the past eleven years, full-time parenting. But still, I must admit, I missed theatre.
Then last winter I spied a casting noticed for a play (Southern Hospitality) directed by Hjalmer Anderson. I knew Hjalmer only by name; he was one of a small group of local drama teachers with a “rock star” reputation whose name often came up in conversation with other student teachers while I was pursing my Master in Teaching degree at UW in the 1990s. I saw a few of his productions at Woodinville High School, and could feel that same sense of professionalism that had been fostered in me as a high school student. I was impressed, and here I make the disclaimer that impressing me is not easy; I can be very critical. So, when I saw that casting notice for Southern Hospitality last winter, I suspected that it might be that opportunity making “itself plainly known.” It was. To say I was grateful to have found, and been welcomed into, the community here at Woodinville Reparatory Theatre would be an understatement. It certainly renewed my faith in the theatre.
I am not sure if community members fully realize what a gem they have in their midst, but I am hoping that this upcoming production of Greater Tuna will make it more clearly known to not only Woodinville residents, but those in all the surrounding communities. I know I can speak for Chazz, my fellow partner in crime – er, wigs & dresses – that we’ll be giving it our all over the next four weeks of rehearsals in what’s sure to be a one helluva funny production. It’s hard to say who’s going to have more fun: the audience or the two of us. I guess you’ll just have to come out and find out for yourself!
In the meantime, I’ll provide periodic updates here and give you an inside look at rehearsals, costume fittings, and whether or not Chazz and I are showing any signs of schizophrenia from attempting to portray ten characters (each) over the course of an hour-and-a-half!
WRT Note: Andrew Carr, one of the stars of our upcoming show Greater Tuna, has graciously agreed to do a little blogging for us during the rehearsal period. Please look for more posts soon!