Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community Theatre's blessing, curse, and unfortunate necessities

The last show I'm going to do for a long time ended this past Sunday as Fiddler on the Roof in Wellesley closed. It still hasn't really sunk in yet. Maybe it won't, cause I'm planning on cheating a bit: I'm going to jump into the crew for Spelling Bee in Newton if my schedule will allow, and the director for Wellesley's EMACT festival show has been operating on the fait accompli method of persuading me to join their crew, too. (Not to mention I'm expecting to be directing again this summer at Summer Scene.)

But I realized during the show's run that I had fallen again into the trap of only really talking to people during tech week and performance weeks. Show after show, I'll make friends with lots of cast members during the rehearsal process, but it's completely superficial. "Hey, you work there, that's interesting." "Hey, you're coming to rehearsals from that town, what route do you take?"

It's bullshit. I don't even know why I do it - is it because I spend so little time with these people during the early rehearsal process that I don't really care? Is it because the course of a show is so short from start to finish that by never getting close to people, I never really lose any friends? Is it because the theatre world in eastern Mass. is so small I can run into people a year, two years down the road, so never getting close doesn't even matter?

Whatever it is, that subconscious strategy gets blown to hell during tech. With so much more time and close contact, not to mention cast parties and outings, longer conversations and deeper histories follow. How is it I don't learn until the show is nearly through that one castmate speaks eight languages and nearly went into the seminary? How is it I don't learn until then that another castmate lost his partner very suddenly last year? That another has been with his wife for fifty years and writes musicals of his own? Another is returning to Los Angeles to pursue acting for a career, another is a well-respected goes on.

It seems to me almost a crime to not know anything until it's too late for it to be meaningful. Even after I've learned these fascinating details, there's so little opportunity to make it into a conversation that it's safer not to bother.

Only on rare occasions does a friendship or relationship surpass the restrictions of a show. I'm dating someone I met through a show. Two close friends were in Oz with me. Another was in Godspell with me and suffered through Beauty and the Beast auditions with me two years ago. But other than that? Nothing real.

It's community theatre's blessing and curse. It's not a huge commitment to do a show three nights a week for eight weeks and on the ninth be kinda crazy and then be done with it all. But by the same token, three nights a week for eight weeks is no basis for a friendship. It's just not enough non-rehearsal interaction.

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