At last, we're in the current decade!
The summer of 2000 (or the summer after my junior year) was probably one of if not the roughest summer of my life. It doesn't come close to comparing to the rough times a lot of people I know have experienced, but the events of my first summer job followed by the national ABY conference and then church camp left me an emotional wreck.
This blog isn't about that, but it is worth noting. This blog is about my first professional theatre gig at "the best darn dinner theatre this side of the Mississippi", Southwestern College (Winfield, KS)'s Horsefeathers and Applesauce.
I'm not going to lie, there are times when I really, really miss H&A. The Moons were some of the friendliest people I've ever met, and they really helped me grow as a professional and as an actor in the five summers I worked for their fantastic company. H&A was a group that convened from early June till late July at Southwestern, lived in some on-campus apartments, and basically did theatre all day, every day, for two months, with the exception of every other Monday off. We opened a show every other week, so we did four full-scale productions in eight weeks (usually two large musicals and two smaller shows)
My first summer working at Horsefeathers I was an unpaid apprentice, which meant that I only stayed for one of the four shows. (The first show was usually made up of community actors and rehearsed before the general company arrived) Thus, I stayed for the first month of the summer working yet again on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This could have been a really great experience for me, but I allowed a certain other apprentice girl to mess with my head and my heart while I was there, and it was just bad news all around. Everybody knew it, too, which made it worse. And I didn't actually "like" her, either. It was a mess, and through it I learned not to let personal and professional stress mix, because it sucked.
Other things that sucked: you remember the camel from MTYP? Yeah. We rented that same camel for this show. Fortunately, I had no dealings with the camel this time around, since I was one of Joseph's brothers (Issachar, I believe) and not a hairy Ishmaelite. (I don't believe any of the Ishmaelites had gone through puberty yet, interestingly enough, and several of them were related to the artistic director) I did, however, get to work professional with the goat whose head came off, dripping red ribbons everywhere. Musical theatre rocks.
Also, our choreographer struggled with substance abuse. Like, she came into one rehearsal completely smashed. Oh, it was bad. She started blocking a huge tumbling number for all the girls in one of the slowest points in the music. She blocked a stylized orgy scene for the Potiphar song. She started grabbing cast members jubilantly and saying, "Guess what? You're in the show now!" She would then try to throw them into the tumbling number. I felt very bad for our stage manager, who was stage managing her first show professionally. We had at least one actor storm out of that rehearsal and march down to Allyson (the director of the company) to complain. Rehearsal ended shortly thereafter.
I felt really bad for this woman, and her husband (the production's music director) handled the situation very well, I thought, but wow! What an intro to the professional world!
It didn't stop there, though. Our Joseph was apparently very diabetic. Between the first and second weekend of the run, he apparently starved himself but still went out and drank heavily every night. That was a bad combination, as during our brush-up rehearsal for an invited audience before the second weekend, he fainted. We were at the scene where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and we're all overcome with emotion, and he puts a hand on my shoulder as I'm kneeling before him...and then he starts leaning against me...then he's leaning really hard...and then he just fell. And that's where the show ended that night.
All in all, I think I enjoyed my first year at H&A. It's hard to remember clearly, because so much happened that summer, especially after H&A, and so much has happened since, but I did go back so clearly it must have been more good than bad. What makes this experience truly significant, though, to my career and to my life, is not the drunk choreographer stories, or my first professional gig, or my own emotional wreckage that summer. This was the job after which I never doubted that I was going to work in the arts. I know many Christians overuse the terms "called" and "calling" to justify doing what they wanted to do anyway, but I really do believe that I was called by God that summer. I say this because I had spent years upon years reminding myself how foolish it would be to pursue a life in theatre. It wouldn't work; it NEVER worked. But this summer, working in theatre outside of my comfort zone, I felt God saying that He needed emissaries in the world of the arts. Not necessarily people committed to only making Christian art, though I definitely believe some are called specifically to that purpose, but Christians in the arts. Stories told from a biblical worldview, whether they preach a Christian message or not. Actors who don't live the life of "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" Believers who will sacrifice neither their faith and integrity nor their art, who can set examples to non-believing artists and patrons alike. Reminders that God loves the artistic soul, the off-beat imagination.
In short, lights in the darkness.
So there you have it. From that point, I knew I was going to be a something. An actor, a director, a scenic designer, a writer, I wasn't sure on any of the details, but I knew I would be a something in theatre. I had no clue how, but I had no doubts it would happen. I chose to recognize my rationalizations that steered me away from this idea for what they were: fear. I abandoned fear for faith.
From now on, my hobby wasn't just a hobby anymore. It was time to get real.