Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Audience We Captivate is Already Ours

Ugh. Senior projects.

As they'd say in the 80's- "gag me with a spoon."

But... label me crazy, I'm not annoyed by this ridiculous, school wide joke. Yes, at first I begrudgingly bemoaned with the rest of my classmates, probably solely because my classmates were groaning first. But as last year's seniors were putting on their projects it just came to me. I knew what I was going to do my report on. I knew who I'd interview, how I'd contact him. Heck, I even figured out how to do my service hours. So while my fellow graduating class is rolling their eyes and looking for spoons, I'm grinning and saying "Let's do this."

The moment I asked Eric if I could interview him, outside his local theatre OBT (Off Broadway Theatre), having just joined his improv group onstage for an audience participation game where he said in front of Bountifillians and Salt Lakians alike that we go way back, Eric asked me why.

I told him he was a director, and that's the career I'm going to research.

You want to know what he said? (Forgive me, those who will be reading my senior project paper, though I doubt you're following this lowly blog, I will most likely use this exact scenario in my project as well.)

"Well yeah. But not really. I do everything. Stage craft, tech, playwright, actor... You name it I do it."

I admit, at the time, I was mildly dumbfounded. He'd cut me off my course. He'd almost made it seem like what I was asking him was completely pointless.

Thankfully I persisted.

I've been spending every Tuesday afternoon for the past month or so now "helping" with the acting classes (taught by Eric) at Rodger's Memorial Theatre. The first two weeks I felt like a complete waste of space. For two hours a week I sat and pushed play on the CD player approximately two times per Tuesday. I also spotted lines for missing people.

But, never fear, Eric scourged up some things for me to do the next week. Boy did I feel productive writing down what songs were what track on the CD.

But the next week, it's safe to say, changed my life. Literally.

Eric left the room for a moment, and I snappishly made the rowdy kids get back to rehearsing, saying that "Just because Eric's out of the room doesn't mean rehearsals over." I'm sorry to say that I believe the minorly bratty tone I subconsciously used that day has affected the way those kids see me. So the twenty of twenty-five that don't know me from previous shows seem to think I'm some bipolar lose cannon. Sigh.

I expected to keep them on track for five to ten minutes, then Eric would stride into the room and say in his booming, actor's voice, to run that scene from the top.

Well, five minutes turned to ten, and ten to fifteen, and it dawned on me that I was the teacher. That I was the one holding the reigns of this rehearsal.

I moved my way to the front of the room, pillaged script in hand, and began conducting rehearsal with a knowing air--though I've never attempted to instruct someone how to act in my life. Not saying that the need hasn't been exceptionally over-powering in some instances, but all in all I've never let my acting experience escape my own head.

By the time I'd settled into that strange position Eric strode through the room.

"Great going, guys!"

And he was gone.

Minutes later he'd pass by again.

"Thanks." He'd pat me on the knee as he briskly left the room.

And I truly don't know what it was. I really don't know why that day was so substantially different than every other day I'd "helped" there, or from any other acting class/rehearsal I've attended. But I left that place knowing that this is really what I want to do. It's always been a "Yeah. Uh huh. I'll get a teaching degree in theatre in college and see if I ever end up actually using it." "Yeah. Uh huh. Teaching theatre could be fun."

And today, just a few hours ago, I was sitting by myself in the dark, eye-straining tech booth running the sound and actually touching a sound board; writing notes on things the kids should fix or pay better attention to. I've been saying that, today, I was "Livin' the dream," doing what I've seen so many directors do for me, but finally being on the other side of it.

And while performing is phenomenal, there's something about being behind it that lifts me all the more. I know this is what I should be. I know this is what I should do.

How great it feels to know that yes, this will be my future. How great it is to dream of me and that future husband of mine setting up our own little theatre in some Podunk, artless town. How great it is to have a dream, an ambition. A goal. I never realized how terribly I was lacking one.

But I have it now. And it's all thanks to senior projects.