The play is over. The sets are being dismantled and the entire cast and crew have gone their separate ways. True, some of the people will keep in touch and even see each other on a weekly basis, but this fact won’t hold true for me. You see, the play, if you don’t remember from last weeks blog was held at a church. A church I am not a member of nor have I ever sat through h a service there. I am and will most likely be an outsider to most of the people whom I’ve come into contact with over the past few months.
I don’t mind this fact. As a matter of fact it is my belief that the less you know me, the more you are liable to actually not be disappointed in who I am. I did meet some very nice people and enjoyed my time doing this favor for my buddy. After all, it really didn’t cost me anything but a little time and energy. But you know, through this whole endeavor people kept saying to me “Skip, you are going to miss these people when this is all over. I know I do.” I poo-pooed these sentiments, simply because I don’t really know the people with whom I was interacting with.
I do consider myself fortunate for being able to be a part of the play and I did enjoy myself. But to say I will miss them… I don’t know. I can’t really say for now. But I will say this, I did tell the folks in charge that if they needed me next year, feel free to call upon me.
Now, on to the meat of the blog.
As I’ve stated, we practiced and practice and practiced for a couple months on our scene. And by our scene I mean scene three, it was only on the last night of the play that I found out there were actually eight scenes in all. Meaning I was one of eight Sean’s. There were also eight Katies and eight Bobby’s along with several scores of extras. Oh, and there seemed to be eight Satan’s as well, but only one Jesus. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of people who were in the support crew. From the ladies and gentlemen in the craft services who cooked ungodly amounts of pork bar-b-que, cavatina, hamburgers, hot dogs, cookies, brownies, French fries, tea, lemonade, banana pudding, cookies, salads and I’m sure some treats I’m forgetting. Even the volunteers who managed the parking lots and the group escorts and security personnel had to number into the mid-double digits.
What I’m getting at is; I just didn’t realize from the small room I was practicing in with a dozen people for months that there had been put into place a support group of people made up of individuals who believed in what we were doing despite my reluctance to participate in the first place. I don’t know why I didn’t realize the enormity of the detail I had inadvertently become a part of. But I’m a bit glad I was a part of it.
I guess, looking back now, I started to get an inkling of the size of this evolution began on my second night of acting. I was sitting down at a table with five other people who were involved in the play. While I didn’t know what their individual tasks were, I knew that they were there for a reason simply because they were wearing the uniform t-shirts of the play. T-shirts that were only handed out to cast and crew, at that table, no one asked me what my part in the play was nor why I was there. They just accepted me as one of them. An odd feeling truly. These were people whom I had never met nor had any contact with in my life and yet they just accepted me, my long hair, my leather jacket and my motorcycle helmet at face value.
While we were sitting there, me in silence and listening to the chatter of my tablemates, a man walked by and handed me a sheet of paper which I set on the table next to my food. I was about to read the paper when an elderly lady walked by and handed me a dish of sherbert. I quickly forgot about the paper and ate my frozen treat before it melted. Then, I threw my trash away, gathered up my belongings and folded the paper and put it in my pocket where it was quickly forgotten about.
I made my way to the room where my scene was and stored my gear and relaxed before the rush of attendees started the night rolling in an endless series of repetition on me and my fellow actors. By the end of the night I overheard some of my fellow thespians talking about the paper I had so easily tucked into my pocket. I pulled the paper out and began to read it. The paper consisted of numbers of the previous night’s attendees and quotes by some of the people who had walked through the play.
This moment was a bit of a revelation to me but one I was naïve enough to believe was just a platitude to make us, the cast and crew, feel as if we were part of something larger. I read the words, shrugged my shoulders and tucked the sheet of paper back into my pocket, donned my riding gear and headed out the door. I was too tired to realize what was going on around me.
Over the course of those six nights of acting, more sheets followed, I really didn’t read them, I had no need to. The director of our scene or someone else would read the sheet aloud to us all in that cramped room. During those times, I found myself going over my lines in my head and ignoring the pandemonium of the extras and the incessant babble of the other actors around me. I was trying to be as professional as I could be by making sure I knew when my cues were and exactly how I was supposed to portray my character.
On the last night, this past Sunday night, my view changed. It all came when someone from the dining area said to a table mate “I think we may have two thousand visitors this year.” Now, as I’ve stated in a previous blog, I try to not look at any of the people who come to see us perform, simply because everything I have ever read about acting states that a person’s performance should never be influenced by who is observing them. You are supposed to be portraying a character who believes they are not being observed.
I took that to heart. Sure, I peeked at the shoes the people were wearing as they entered the room but only so that I could give a sign to the gentleman who was in charge of the lights when everyone had entered the room. But to look at the people’s faces, nope, I refused to attempt that slight sin of the theatre.
But, when I heard the careless comment about the number of attendees, my mind reeled a bit. I never kept track of the amount of times we performed each night and I had no desire to. I tried to approach this task as professionally as I could and be as faithful to my character as possible. You know, like I do with all my jobs.
That night though, Sunday night, I found myself sitting on the floor of the room, my back against the wall, wondering exactly what I was doing and whether or not I was doing the right thing. Heartfelt words from people I know who had seen the play already filled my mind. One comment which I received second hand stood out in particular “If I didn’t know Skip better, I would have to say he really is an atheist.” When I first heard that comment I laughed and shrugged it off. I had to, simply because I know what I believe in and I also know I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve. I keep my faith close, like a second skin and I try to never allow any one get close enough to me to see it. Sure, close, very close friends know where I stand, but to the public at large, I’m sure they have no clue where I stand. Which is okay with me.
But as I looked at the sheet of paper with the previous night’s numbers and the tally for the run of the play up to that night, I found myself in a situation I don’t normally find myself. I was surprised. Surprised that there were people out there who took to heart something I and my fellow cast was doing. Surprised that what we did actually spoke something into them that they needed to hear and then they acted upon it. We had made a connection to them simply by having them observing something we were doing. That, to me, is very powerful.
People’s lives had changed and I played a small part in that. I was a bit overwhelmed and I still am. So overwhelmed that at the end of the night I told my director that if he needed me again for next year’s performance that he should feel free to call me. I even informed the writer of the play my intentions, which is extremely unlike my character.
In summary, I’m glad my buddy and his mother hounded me to perform. I’m glad I was able to participate in something that was much larger than I ever believed it could be and I’m comforted by all the good things that have seemed to come out of this endeavor. Lastly, and this is a bit of a secret so don’t tell anyone, I look forward to getting a phone call next year.
Have a great week.