In 2005 I took my 9 year old daughter on an audition for a community theater production of Oliver! and our family hasn’t been the same since!
I remember telling her how proud I was of her that she was taking a chance and auditioning. What mattered is that she trying, whether she was cast or not. Well, she did get a part and thus began my life as a community theater mom. I helped with costumes and props, marketing and snacks. Driving her to rehearsals and hanging around at the theater became second nature. My 11 year old daughter, Katie, got involved a couple of shows later and helped with the tech side of things. It wasn’t long before our son auditioned and was cast in his first role as a Cratchit kid in Scrooge and then later as one of the von Trapp kids. I started learning how to be a stage manager and help with the tech stuff. By this time even my husband had gotten involved (more like sucked in if you ask him) and it truly was a family activity. Whether onstage or behind the scenes, we all really enjoying spending that time together and we made some incredible friends. For fifteen years our cycle was auditions, rehearsals, running lines, performances, cast parties and then repeat.
When the kids grew up and we moved north, I wanted to get involved in a new theater group. I was hesitant though because I knew it would be different since it would no longer be a “family” activity. We went to see the local shows to support them and just when I started making friends that were active in the theater and I was ready to get involved, Covid hit and shut it down for 1.5 years.
Last fall I read about an upcoming show the Tawas Bay Players were doing called Always a Bridesmaid. It’s about 4 best friends who grew up together, promising to be in each other’s wedding no matter what. 30 years later, they are still keeping that promise with often hilarious results. It sounded fun and the main characters were around my age. I watched a version another community theater had done and loved the script. So I summoned up every drop of courage I had and auditioned. In 15 years of community theater I had only been ON stage one other time and that was a small part in a Shakespeare in the Park production. That audition was easy and I was surrounded by people I knew. This audition was different. I didn’t know anyone else auditioning or anyone involved with the show. I almost talked myself out of going.
But I went, and I got the part I wanted. Libby Ruth, the hopeless romantic. On the first night of rehearsals I found out she has the most lines in the whole show and I freaked out a little. Then when I found out we were supposed to be off script in just four weeks, I freaked out a lot. But my family was determined to help me and they ran a lot of lines with me both in person and on video calls. Chad ran them almost daily with me and I bet we could throw him in a dress and he could be an understudy for ANY of the roles at this point! With a lot of work, I was off script as requested on time.
Things were going great until the week we started using lights and sound. It suddenly became very real and the nerves kicked in. I had butterflies and found myself getting shaky backstage as I was waiting to go on. I practiced breathing exercises and forced myself to walk through the door into the scene. I told myself “it’s just community theater” and it was no big deal. But the nerves were still there. I should also mention that Chad stepped up to run sound for the shows for us since the person that had lined up backed out. It was nice having him there and it felt a bit like old times. The comradery in the tech booth, actors rushing through costume changes backstage, that feeling at the end of a really well run scene. The “I can’t wait to get my life back yet I know I’ll miss this” feeling. It feels very familiar. And we have met some really nice people. with this theater group.
I have survived the first four shows. Cassie, the daughter who started all this, drove across the state to be here on opening night. Katie, was there on night two along with a great group of friends and family that made the drive from downstate to be here. Our son Jack is coming next weekend. We have four performances left. I may still get nervous in the wings as I wait to go on, but I won’t let it stop me.