Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

A Musical Past

on June 16, 2011

I’ve been involved in the performing arts for most of my life. Like most children, I got my start in my elementary school’s plays. I was always given a chorus part, since I was pretty much tone-deaf as a young child (as many are). It wasn’t until I had been in band for a year or so that I finally learned how to sing (mostly) on key. By that time, I had set my sights on other pursuits – stage crew.

As with most things in my life, I followed in the footsteps of my sister, who had become interested in technical theatre a few years prior. The first show I had any role of note was my freshman year spring musical, Good News. Sister dear was the stage manager and I was one of the spotlight operators. Again, Samantha had shown an interest in lighting and stage management and I thought those areas were pretty cool myself. I recall the two of us plus the other spot op and lighting board operator doing the big dance number in the lighting booth as the cast performed on stage. It was the fun I had working on this show that solidified my interest in theatre.  

I participated in every production during the remainder of my high school years, eventually working up to serving as both Lighting Designer and Stage Manager of my senior year musical, The Wiz. During that spring, my parents were going through their divorce and the theatre provided a welcome respite from the craziness that I was going through at the time. A refuge, plus dear friends, a favorite Aunt who was choreographing the show and the theatre co-advisor (who I wrote about here) helped me more than I realized at the time.

Through most of high school, theatre had always been a hobby, but nothing I thought about pursuing once I graduated. That began to change the summer between my junior and senior year. Samantha was Stage Manager for the inaugural production of a friend’s theatre company and got me a position as one of the Assistant Stage Managers. Up until this point, my entire theatre experience had come from school. When I started showing up at rehearsals for this production of Godspell, I was amazed by the flexibility and freedom the cast and crew had. We were all part of the creative process and each person was able to contribute. This was a far cry from the top-down approach taken in my high school. It was truly an inspiring experience and to this day, I don’t know if I’ve ever worked with such a talented, creative and welcoming group of people. This was one of the first shows I actually missed after it was over and it got me thinking about not giving theatre up so quickly after graduating.

Fast forward to college: I joined the Penn State Thespians and immediately threw myself as fully as possible into its activities. It was here that I met most of my dearest friends. By my sophomore year I designed the lighting for the spring musical and in my junior year I stage managed the fall musical. After that show I realized I really didn’t enjoy stage managing so I focused my efforts on lighting design. I spent my summers serving as an electrician for Pennsylvania Centre Stage or as a lighting designer for the State College Community Theatre. I had some great designs and some not so great designs. I even tried designing while I was studying abroad in Australia after the designer who had been staffed quit. I guess that went alright, though I never really saw pictures. It was quite the experience trying to design from half a world away and never having seen the show.  

Once I graduated college I tried to stay active in theatre for a while. I even designed a (very) Off-off Broadway production in NYC. But time constraints, going back to school and not wanting to stay out late on a work night anymore started to curtail those activities. I hardly even attend shows anymore either. Perhaps starting a career is what finally shook the theatre bug out of me. I still love it though and off and on look for activities to get back involved. I suppose when the right moment comes, I’ll know and be back lurking behind the scenes again.

Don’t forget!….Our View From Here is doing our second virtual book club the week of June 20th-24th. This time we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Read along with us as we “discuss” this book and are joined by guest blogger Erin!

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One response to “A Musical Past

  1. Samantha says:

    I’d forgotten about the dance numbers in the booth during Good News. It was really the only way to get through that show. That, and to see what the llama did each night.

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