On Stage

The first week of my five days a week blogging and exercising plan found me exercising four days and blogging four days, or five days, if you count a short post on my other blog. Not too shabby.

This week will find me spending a great deal of time hanging out at rehearsals. Every other year, the Park County Arts Council brings the Missoula Children’s Theatre to Meeteetse. Two twenty-something MCT employees sweep into town, and, in the course of four hours a day, get 35-40 kids to put on a performance by the week’s end. The plays themselves are a bit hokey — they’re all sort of funny, musical takes on fairy tales and classics. Two years ago we had Robinson Crusoe; this year it’s Pinocchio. But for one week, instead of the all sports and FFA all the time programming we normally get in this tiny town, we get theatre rehearsals, and I get to hang out on the sidelines. Officially I’m there as a representative of the Arts Council to help the MCT folks out with whatever they need, but really I’m there to experience, albeit vicariously, my very favorite feeling in the whole world: being in a show.

I was never a particularly successsful theatre geek, but I got enough roles in school and at camp over the years that I still have theatre nightmares, dreams where I’m backstage and I know I’m on in the next scene and I don’t know my lines and I don’t have my script, and I”m running around desperately trying to find a script I can look at to save myself from terminal embarrassment. I always wake up from those dreams greatly relieved, but secretly I love them, because secretly, deep down inside, I keep hoping that one day I’ll wake up as Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney will be there, quivering with excitement, and saying to me, “We could get a barn and put on a show!”

I loved being in plays, even terrible plays. I loved it even though the roles I got were almost always what my college friend and I referred to as MANGAS parts — mothers and nurses, governesses and servants. The exception was camp, where I got to play men’s parts. But I didn’t care, even when I knew I’d gotten chosen for a part more for my dumpy looks than for my acting ability. I loved the feeling of creating something from nothing, of watching the people you saw every day turn into other people, and of watching how suddenly all your interactions were different. I loved it because I thrive on adrenaline and crisis, and theatre is full of both. I loved that I suddenly had a relationship with the other people in the play: I wasn’t just some girl they went to school with, or who lived in their cabin: I was a cast member.

I don’t get to do theatre any more, although in a particularly grandiose mood I’m prone to fantasize about putting on a production of Our Town here in my tiny town. But this week, the week of the Missoula Children’s Theatre residency, I get to hang out and watch it all happen in front of me, and it’s almost as good, I’m happy to say, as having it happen to me.

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