Thursday, February 26, 2009

No More Drama?

Well, that's a bit fatalistic. But that's what I'm feeling these days. (Above: Me as Sue in The Exonerated, February '06)

Ever since I saw my first play (around the age of 4--my parents started me early on the road to theater geekdom), I have had an extremely complicated love affair with the theatre.

I made my stage debut the summer before 5th grade with the Back Alley Players. My neighbor Heather and I went to the library, checked out a bunch of children's plays, and decided on "Rapunzel" (mainly because Kristen Scarino, who lived down the block, had really long blonde hair.) We rallied the neighborhood kids and rehearsed every day in our back alley (I grew up in a rowhouse neighborhood, so nobody really had backyards--the entire alley became one big playground for us.) I played Rapunzel's mom, and Heather played the witch (truly ironic, because years later she would find fame as the girl in The Blair Witch Project...yup, THAT Heather!)

From then on, I was hooked. I spent my summers at a local children's theater; I performed in every school play I could. I rarely recognized Top 40 songs because I only listened to showtunes. In high school and college, whenever I had the choice to research something independently, I managed to make it theater-related (a paper comparing Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams; an educational psychology paper on the power of creative drama.)

When college came, however, I balked at actually majoring in drama. Instead, I minored in it--still acting all the time in college productions, community theater, and a local dinner theater/improv troupe. (The last was a true test of acting skills--staying in character while wolfing down tiramisu was not necessarily my finest hour!) I majored in the lofty field of English, immersing myself in Austen and Fielding, yet secretly preferring my acting and directing classes.

By senior year, I'd grown tired of the acting game--tired of shallow actors, the backstage drama, irrationally pinning all my joy on scoring a role. I fled to a volunteer program for two years, and welcomed the break. I focused on teaching, and eventually found my way back onstage here and there. I began to see that my true passion was a marriage of theater AND education. I felt most alive, as a teacher, when I was directing the school play or implementing a drama activity in class to make literature come alive. Getting my master's in Educational Theatre was the perfect fit. And each time I performed in a new show, the energy and enthusiasm completely transferred to my teaching.

But now, I'm back to teaching English full time. While I enjoy it, sometimes I feel like a fraud. I mean, this was always supposed to be my "fallback" job if I couldn't score an actual drama teaching position. Who knew my fallback would become my career? But such a position usually means directing the school show--which I absolutely loved, but it meant VERY long hours and weekends. With a little one at home, that's just not realistic. I even interviewed at a theater company in Philly for a fabulous education position, but it became pretty clear to all of us during the interview that I wasn't ready to give up time with the Teege...even for a dream job.
And as for acting? Not right now. Working on a show requires tremendous dedication and energy--which is firmly reserved for my son these days. I don't think I could handle kissing him goodnight and then dashing off to rehearsal time and again. Yet I do miss opening up a script, bringing it to life, and that flying-without-a-net feeling of opening night. I also miss the sense of community that theater can provide. I was part of a fantastic little company in Jersey City (, which really became my family during my time up there. (We performed in an old mansion which housed a number of groups--during Thursday night performances, we were constantly interrupted by the applause coming from the AA meeting in the basement.) I performed in my last play with them while I was 4 months pregnant. I remember sitting backstage with my hand on my stomach, thinking about when I would tell this child about the time we "acted" together.
It's very difficult to consciously put your passion on the back burner...but as I told a student today, it's wise to know your limits. And honestly, I wouldn't trade this little "limit" for the world.