As we finish the run of the play (A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM), I find that I truly enjoy being involved in community theatre.  It is the art form I keep coming back to – and somehow maintain a desire to keep involved.  I just can’t seem to get enough of it.


I have been in other arts groups in the area: an orchestra, two different community bands, a choir or two, and a poetry group.  In every case, my appetite for each of those forms has been met in one way or another.  I have quit performing with those groups for some reason or another, and maybe return for a concert or two, but I find I dry up in my interest in these art forms


But theatre keeps calling to me.   It is the one form I’ve stayed with in my 36 years here in this area.  I keep returning.  I keep up a hunger to be involved one way or another.


My first experiences with theatre were as a musician in the pit orchestras.  I played for several shows in the late 70s in Little Falls and Brainerd – what those shows were doesn’t really matter – what does matter are the friends I made and the joy I found in the whole process of putting together such shows.  It meant late hours sometimes, but then, I was younger then and could absorb a 4 a.m. bedtime and get up for work the next day.  I actually had my first stage exposure in Little Falls when they produced THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  In the awards scene, one of the prizes goes to a trio of musicians.  Three of us from the pit clambered up a spiral staircase, crossed the stage, accepted our award – and yes, we had a costume to wear – and then head back down into the pit to finish the show.


Then came an opportunity to direct the pit with another friend.  He ran the rehearsals and directed one week of THE MUSIC MAN, and then I directed the second.  Unfortunately, it was during this time that I had one of my more embarrassing moments – it seems I took the tempo too fast on YOU GOT TROUBLE in the show and practically had the actor doing HaroldHill in complete apoplexy.  To this day I feel I need to apologize to him for that grievous choice of tempo…. And I’ve done so many times.


Then came my first real audition for a stage role.  The director at the community college in town (BobDryden) had always thought I’d be a good one on stage.  On the night of the college graduation, where I was playing my trombone with the college band for commencement, Bob waited for the ceremony to end, grabbed me by my arm and took me directly into the theatre where he had me audition for GUYS AND DOLLS.  I found myself having to learn SIT DOWN YOU”RE ROCKING THE BOAT with a young lady at the piano… we went to a practice room where she and I worked out the song.  Funny thing: that young lady is now my wife.  She tells the story better than I do, but that was where the real start of my theatrical work.


That was 1982.  I have since been involved with 40 shows, most of them on stage.  I have done musicals, comedies and dramas.  I have had parts of all sizes – but no leads yet, as such.  I have performed in regular proscenium stages, in a black box.  I have even had the opportunity to be part of a group known as the IMPART PLAYERS, a group that performed a play for a banquet group, with the cast out among the guests, involving them in solving murders and engaging the guests in conversation, staying in character all the time.


I have been so very blessed being involved with so many messages of the shows I’ve been in.  There are the musicals like FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, ANNIE, FANTASTICKS, and of course the latest production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.  I have been part of regional humor, doing shows like DON’T HUG ME, DON’T HUG ME AT THE COUNTY FAIR, LUMBERJACKS IN LOVE, and CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES.  For shows that people have heard of, there’s THE ODD COUPLE and INHERIT THE WIND.  I have also been so very lucky to be part of shows that were maybe not so well known, but carried a strong message – QUILT was a musical play about the making of the AIDS Quilt project.  TEN NOVEMBER found me as part of a cast telling the story of the Wreck of the EdmundFitzgerald…and no, we had no hint of Gordon Lightfoot anywhere in the show – all the music in this show was written by Minnesotans (PeterOustroushko and EricPeltoniemi) who created some of the most creative music I’ve ever heard.


So what it is that is so rewarding for me in the theatre world?  Why do I keep going back to it time after time?  I think my friend Bill – who was in FORUM with me said (and TEN NOVEMBER and some of the IMPART PLAYERS stuff) the other night backstage before the show started….


In Bill’s words, “It’s the people.  And its therapy.”


Well, there it is.  Theatre helps me feel great.  Theatre allows me to be part of a very active community.  I experience a release.  I enjoy the audience’s reactions.  I am surrounded by people who share the common goal of creating something special – and that goes for everyone involved…. From the directing staff, to the tech folks who design and build the sets, lights, and costumes… to my fellow actors, who find they rely on each other so much on stage – Being in theatre is a living, active endeavor that encompasses such a wide range of skills and reliance on each other … I don’t feel that same thing with bands and choirs – I am nowhere as aware of the technical things to prepare a concert… but in a play, it is simply amazing!  I hope to do many more shows … and I hope I have the wisdom to know when I should become an audience member.