I remember the beginning of my theatre career. It started my freshman year with the ‘beginning of the year,’ ‘come join theatre,’ and ‘come learn how to do stuff’ meetings. I learned how to wire plugs, and what a ‘twist and lock’ was, the difference between ellipsoidal and par four, how to bring lights up on cats, and how to handle gels and gobos. I saw how everyone acted with each other. They were all friends and everyone new each other and acknowledged each other. Everyone was comfortable, and you could feel the bond between them all: the relationships, the ties. I remember once on a tech day, after getting used to coming to theatre and after meeting everyone, we were on a break, and we passed around an invisible joint just for the fun of it. And I remember how during Dracula the vampire make-up was a thin white powder (we called it cocaine) that got caught up in the breezes caused by passing actors and ended up all over the hallway floor. I remember one rehearsal I was sitting backstage with a handful of people. Kelley and Dick were having a conversation about masturbation habits: “I bet Whitney’s doing it right now,” said Dick. I just looked up in response; I had barely been paying attention. “Yeah. That’s why we can never see her hands,” Kelley replied. One of my hands was on the tabletop to my left, and the other, although in my lap, clearly visible. “Yeah, you know me,” I said and laughed. I remember being backstage during the Dracula performances and Parth coming over and sitting on my lap. “You make a comfy chair,” he said to justify what he was doing. And I remember how one night the fire alarms went off suddenly, just minutes before the show was about to start, and we all had to stand outside for nearly an hour in the windy chill of a late October evening. I remember the cast party after the show on our way to the movies driving in Parth’s van. It was called “the meth lab on wheels,” and it was missing all of its back seats. Josh, Tanner, and I sat in the back on the floor, and I remember being thrown forward when Parth jokingly slammed on the breaks in the theatre parking lot. That same night, I remember, Parth brought me home. “I really have to pee,” he said every so often during the ride from the theatre to my house, each time sounding more urgent. “Do you mind if I use your bathroom when we get to your house?” He finally asked in desperation when we were just a couple of minutes away. “Sure,” I answered, but it didn’t matter because when he turned into my neighborhood:
“Umm, Whitney, your neighborhood is really dark and creepy.”
“Yeah, I know. We don’t have many street lights.”
“…I don’t have to go anymore.”
“Eww!” chimed the whole car.
“No, no, I mean I’m just going to hold it.”
“Okay. Suit yourself.” He ended up going at Josh’s house.
Barefoot in the Park was very different, yet somehow the same. I learned new things as I do with every show. I learned how to make foreign delicacies with a microwave, and how to age a person fifty years. I learned how to record blocking and how to run around and to be extra aware of actors and their entrances. I was a telephone, a doorbell, and part of a moving crew. I remember how being part of the cast was so different. How the threads of the relationship were tied more tightly when you had a certain place to be every day. The experimentation of the actors was new to me too. I hadn’t seen the way a show really worked up close and personal. I remember the comedy every time John tried a new accent for his funny character. I remember the jokes about Margie playing an old lady. I remember taking hundreds of pictures and getting my reputation as the “future historian,” and I remember seeing my pictures on the display outside the theatre the night of the show. And lastly I remember picture night. We took our wacky picture last, and just as the camera flash captured us, I decided on my pose: my arms outstretched with a big open-mouthed smile.
I feel myself grow each year from my theatre experiences, and find myself looking back on good times. Like when Mike, the trouble maker, made an epic “that’s what she said” during Picasso that is still often talked about in the department. “Ryan, it’s this way with the head, then that way with the head,” said Ms. Lewis, who was the most innocent person in the entire theatre department, about to be the victim of the epic joke. Being part of all of this has taught me that it’s not the funny that makes the theatre, it’s not the shows you do, nor the way the roles are cast. It’s not how many hours you work, or how many nights you sell out. I’ve learned that what is important is having the memories and ties to the people within the theatre. Remembering Tyler, Danny, and Zak lying on the floor together, and remembering the full cast spooning sessions. And of course, remembering how it feels every year to lose the seniors. Remembering their red, wet eyes, and how tightly they hugged you. How you sobbed with them the last night of the show, and how it felt as if someone pulled at all the ties and bonds at once as you left the hug. I felt that pressure on my heart after I hugged Sammy for the last time that night. I felt the ties, not just with her, but with the whole department. I could feel their strength, and how they could never be broken.
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