There are friends and then there are Theater Friends. It’s kinda like Facebook. There’s some folks you’re “friends” with on Facebook and you have lively conversations back and forth on one wall or another but you know if you met them in real life it wouldn’t be the same. That’s sort of like theater friendships. They burn hot and strong for a few weeks, months whatever the duration of the show’s rehearsal schedule is and that’s it. They fade just as quickly as they come until you see them at the next audition or if you’re lucky another show.
It’s an intense “thing”, this community theater. From putting yourself out there during auditions to making the cut and being cast, a lot is asked, demanded and expected of you. In a relatively short amount of time too. No one knows this better than the person on the line next to you. You bond over both your inability to pick up choreography quickly, a shared love/hate relationship with the stage manager, and the massive amounts of caffeine needed to sustain you as you rehearse for hours after working all day. Theater friends “get” each other in ways that your non-theater friends simply can’t.
Too often theater friends don’t transcend into real friends. The reasons for this are as varied as the characters we play. Maybe it’s because everything is so intense- there’s simply no time to relate to anyone in ways other than focusing on the show at hand. Maybe it’s because we know that in around 8 weeks it’s all over and there’s a good chance we won’t see these people again because of our “real life” commitments, distances, etc. Maybe it’s because we know there’s a good chance we’ll be competing with our new friends for a coveted role down the road.
Every once in a while a theater friendship does make its way into a real, honest-to-goodness friendship. Where you talk about things other than your latest theatrical pursuit, you see each other outside of auditions and drinks after shows. When that happens it’s amazing. It’s like Christmas and your birthday and a trip to Disney all rolled into one. Because here’s someone who understands when you utter those famous words, “I can’t, I have rehearsal”, will empathize with you over horrid directors expecting you to be off book so soon, and yet they know there’s so much more to you than the last role you played.
You certainly shouldn’t dump your other friends in the hopes that your theater friendships will transcend the stage. Your non-theater friends are the ones there for you in the audience giving you that standing-o (whether you deserve it or not because that’s what friends do). When rehearsals are done and you need something to take your mind off that post-show depression, they’ll be ready to have dinner with you and fill you in on everything you missed during while you were rehearsing.
For those 8 or so weeks when your life is consumed by rehearsals, dancing, memorizing, and blocking theater friends got your back. And as wonderful as it is to make that magical transition from theater friends to “real” friends, you can’t go looking for it. Because it’s something that can’t be found, it just happens. And it doesn’t have to happen for you to enjoy your time in both worlds.
Photo: Lower Dauphin High School