One winter day a long time ago, I was wandering through the Boston Public Garden in the middle of a snow flurry. I had just come from an informational meeting for a graduate program that I had no actual interest in and I was frustrated. New to the east coast, I was lost — both literally and figuratively. I had just left a close-knit theatre community in Denver and didn’t know how to go about finding the same thing in this new part of the country, so in my panic, I applied to graduate theatre programs because going back to school seemed safe and familiar. After this meeting, though, I wasn’t so sure.
I found myself standing in front of the Angel of the Waters statue that day. The base of the statue says “Cast Thy Bread Upon the Waters for Thou Shalt Find It After Many Days.” Snowflakes clung to my eyelashes and I remember wearily saying to the Angel statue “I just want community. That’s all. I want to have PEOPLE.”
About a week after that, I auditioned for a new improv theatre in Boston and was cast. Sixteen years later, the people I worked with and eventually taught at that theatre are still my people, my community, my chosen family. I moved away, then I moved again…and again…and again…and again, but everywhere I went, I cast my metaphorical bread and found community. In fact, when it came time to defend my graduate thesis (I eventually DID end up in grad school, but in Georgia), I invited all of my friends and colleagues to the defense even though defenses had typically been a closed-door situation in the past. At the beginning of the defense, there was a time for me to speak before the thesis committee started their questioning. The committee looked around the packed room and then expectantly at me. I took a breath and spoke — “You said this was a defense, so I brought my army.”
Every theatrical production is a community, a family that is bound together by a singular artistic product. During tech week, the week in which all of the elements of the play from acting to sets are put together for the first time, it sometimes feels more like an army doing battle with the challenges of uniting all of those elements. Here’s the lovely thing, though…the army always wins. In no theatrical production ever has anyone said “That set door doesn’t close right. Well, we tried. Let’s just quit.” We do what we have to do to make things right and the army always wins.
What I love about Penobscot Theatre in particular is the community within the community. Our artistic family is comprised of so many local folks who act in our plays, label our postcards, sit on our board, build and paint our sets or just see our shows. Without them — without you — there is no theatre. What we produce on our stages is for the community but, more importantly, it is by the community. I always used to tell my students at the University of Georgia that if they loved theatre, there would always be a place for them in the theatre. It may not be a onstage and it may only be compensated in appreciation, but there is a place. If you love theatre, we have a place for you at Penobscot Theatre Company and whether you know it or not, you’re already part of our family.
The Mystery of Irma Vep opened this weekend and I hope you go to see it to see the kind of magic our army created. Two actors play eight characters and, by my count, have a thousand billion costume changes on a spectacular and intricate set. It’s a funny, irreverent, devil-may-care firestorm of a show and I love it so, so much. Get your tickets by calling (207) 942-3333. Come and celebrate this community with us!