Sunday, August 25, 2013

Musings About Our Actors

 One of the things I love about our theatre is how much it feels like a family. A weird, sometimes dysfunctional and chaotic family, but a family just the same. As producer and owner, it is my job to navigate the current with grace and class and approach all decisions with professional leadership. And the other 99% of the time, I just do the best I can.
  I could write today about how I feel about actors missing rehearsals for reasons I deem ridiculous, irresponsible, frivolous. I could write about how frustrated I get when people blow off responsibilities. I could say how angry it makes ensemble actors in the cast when principles are absent or keep everyone waiting because there is nothing to rehearse until they show up. I could rant and vent about giving actors chances to shine and then feel like they sh*t on those chances, and choose to be lazy or busy. But I won't. Not today.
  Today I am choosing to focus on the good things that the actors in my company do. I am. I really, really, REALLY am. Despite all the drama and mistakes and poor choices, there are such golden moments that deserve mention.
-Like the transplant military actor  in the ensemble of "REPO, The Genetic Opera" in 2010 who had to leave after only one play to serve his country. His fellow actors have made sure that for every show since, his picture is somewhere in the show. On a name badge, or a nondescript framed photo on the set. They've even placed his framed picture in the shopping cart of a homeless woman character in "Avenue Q". The audience doesn't even notice, but the actors do. Then they take pictures and email him or post it on Facebook so he can see it and still feel part of the company of actors. 
-The way that the actors chip in to buy the first ticket on opening night. This is something our co-owner +Lj Brewer's Mom did for us on EVERY opening night, started way back when we were feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. She would drop by the theatre about an hour before curtain with money in hand and say "the first ticket is on me", and would give first patron in line free admission. This was done even after purchasing her own tickets. After she passed away, the actors in her honor started the "First One's for Frances" tradition and have done it for every show since her passing.
-The way every new actor is greeted and loved and accepted for who they are. I have seen the girl who felt so nervous her first show, who never thought she would fit in during her first production, reach out two shows later to another girl who she noticed was feeling the same way. And then in turn has blossomed and reached out to the next new actress. I have seen LGBT people accepted and loved and cheered for who they are, instead of judged and excluded. 
-That the actors write on the walls of the dressing room after each production. When I feel defeated, I go back there and read the thousand or so musings. It inevitably cheers and refocuses me. I realize that many theatres do this, but ours started when we took over our current space, after a former theatre had gone out of business. The walls then sported previous actors writings, not too many but enough to know how much they loved their space. My original plan was to paint the dressing room, and designate a place for signatures, but after our very first performance, which had felt unconnected and hollow, those actors and I decided to sign alongside these original writings. I don't think it's a coincidence that the performance immediately after that was amazing and felt whole. Now, even the ceiling in the dressing room has been signed.
-The way they support each other by buying tickets to see their fellows perform in other productions, even at other theatres. They show up to shows and performances to cheer their friends. Again, this isn't a Paper Wing Theatre exclusive, but it's heartwarming just the same, especially since the world has become a busy, distracting place.
These are just a few of the reasons the actors impress and make me happy. 

"You're a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see... what you can truly be
That you can truly be." 
-Earth, Wind, and Fire