The story is as unique as the special lady I am lovingly eulogizing, and as plentiful as those of us who find our home on the stage.
My angel came to me in my 13th year. I was a shy kid with a few friends. My parents had divorced, and I traveled between their homes on a rotating schedule. I wasn’t athletic; I had missed band tryouts, and, though I experimented with my friends’ youth groups, nothing really clicked.
Then on a whim, at the urging of a handful of friends, I auditioned for our local community college’s rendition of Oklahoma! My mother was musically inclined, but I had no real experience. Luckily for me, it didn’t seem to matter. I was cast as a townsperson and joined the ranks of community theatre. I could have never guessed that my life would be forever changed.
I was careful to follow directions, stay under the radar, and blend in. I managed to remain the perfect wallflower until the Farmer and the Cowman dance ended up one dancer short of a perfect square dance.
Well, this dark-haired girl that neither the director nor the choreographer knew by name caught the theater bug. I participated in every show I could in my area; musicals and melodramas and prevention theater. I became one of the family.
I didn’t even know what that meant until five years later when my grandmother passed unexpectedly. As a child of a broken home, my grandmother was my stalwart. Losing her felt unbearable, and I was on the verge of a mental collapse. In my moment of need, my angel was there, picking me up off the floor and ensuring me that I would not only survive but triumph.
Since then, I became her assistant, then began my own directing career. I have worked with mentors and become one. I have needed the family and been the family that others needed.
This is what we mean when we say the theatre is a family. We love fiercely and pick each other up in the hard moments. We fight, and we celebrate each other’s victories. Students especially need adults who are willing to go into the trenches with them and love them through it. This is what we can offer our students in high school theater programs, and this is what they, in turn, will offer the future generations.
Who was your theatre angel?