Friday, March 30, 2012

These Damn Yankees Are for You

Right around the time I turned 30 I was living in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. On a whim, one evening after work, I rode with a coworker to the auditions for a community production of N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker (the Broadway hit that was eventually turned into a movie starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn.)

I'm not sure why I decided, that night, to swallow my fear and to audition. I suppose it probably had to do with this latent desire to perform on stage, to tap into that long-lost-but-never-forgotton childish of all childish behavior: playing pretend.

 I'd been in one production in my life before then, a small stint in the musical The Music Man staged at my local high school when I was 18. I had no lines and therefore nothing to risk or to lose (except a friend or two who thought theater was for ... those who were confused, let's say).

I never got up the urge to do it again, though. Not until The Rainmaker that is.

Fast forward to St. J some twelve years later, and to the old creaky boards of the Lyndon Town Hall stage. I was hooked that first night of rehearsal and have been in a number of community productions since.

Tonight, Damn Yankees  will open on the same stage where The Music Man and some 18 other community musicals have been played.

I have to say, I'm proud to be a part of this one. There is simply nothing at all like the gathering of local talent to put on a few nights of entertainment. The sacrifice of time is probably the hardest. Students in the cast (the backbone of every community show) have had to sit in the back hall doing homework between scenes; the adults: well, we've had to scurry from work three nights a week, forsaking our families at home. My own sacrifice includes leaving my wife to fend for herself in a house with four small children while I get to go play pretend. I owe her a medal. And a back rub.

But we who do this understand that sacrifice, and so do our families. Otherwise, we wouldn't do it.

To the community, these people are giving a gift. Of time, energy and talent. For the cost of a movie ticket, folks can see homegrown pretend-players; budding stars and aging veterans like myself; musicians; directors and stage hands, all of whom live right next door to you.

Where else but in your local community theater productions can you enjoy this kind of experience? I can't think of one.

For selfish reasons I want my friends there, to feed off your energy. But I want the friends of my cast members and crew there as well, especially those of the high school kids in the show. So that they will be inspired to keep doing this, and not wait until they're 30.

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