Monday, August 9, 2010

Standing in the Wings

I used to be incredibly active in theater. I would go from rehearsing one show to another ad nauseum, often overlapping and never missing a beat.

Okay, rarely missing a beat. Seldom missing a lyric.

As I've gotten older, I've intentionally stepped back. It's harder now. It takes a lot of energy to step into the spotlight and turn yourself over to the crowd, working with everything you've got to entertain them. Which explains why I am completely exhausted as I write this.

I spent my weekend rehearsing and performing three shows for two separate theater companies. And while I'm glad I did it, I am equally glad it's over!

Friday night found me rehearsing for the Summer Showcase with Liberty Town Productions. My friend Dustin Helvie recruited me for this show, a musical review of Broadway over the past 50 years. I sang "When You're Good to Mama" from Chicago, and sang duets of "Easy Street" from Annie with my new best friend Tim and "What is This Feeling?" from Wicked with Abbi. Plus there were three group numbers the whole company performed - "The Time Warp", "Seasons of Love" and "You Can't Stop the Beat."

We rehearsed Friday night and all day Saturday, from 9 a.m. until about 5:30 p.m., with breaks for food. Then, shows at 6 and 8:30. This cast was incredibly talented. I loved listening to them sing as much as I loved performing myself. It was a little bit magical.

Kelly drove up from Carbondale to see the show, and I gotta admit, it was amazing to have her in the audience. Because I don't do this very much anymore, it meant a great deal to have someone rooting for me. And willing me to remember all my words.

By the time we ended the last show, I was a marshmallow. My brain was done. It was time to sleep.

And do another show on Sunday! This time, it was with old friends and new annoyances. But my focus was on my old friends. Maybe it was my near-exhausted state, but I was blown away by some of my incredibly talented friends. I really hate The Sound of Music; it ranks among my least favorite shows of all time. But when my friend Julieanne sang, the tears came. Lots of tears on Sunday, actually. Hearing Patrick sing "If You Believe" from The Wiz, and then the all-out weepfest that was Curt Parry's rendition of "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" from Will Rogers Follies. I just couldn't turn it off.

Curt taught me everything I know about my voice. No one has ever made me work harder musically than that man, and I will always be grateful. Not that I think I have a perfect voice, but I have the voice I have because Curt taught me how to get it. He always treated me with dignity and respect, and always appreciated what I brought to the table ... and all of the admiration I have for the man spilled from my eyes as he sang.

This time, I was surprised to find not just Kelly and Ed in the audience, but my Amber, too. She came down from Wisconsin, sick as a dog but full of love, because she wanted to see me perform. The effort my friends made this weekend just blew me away. It mattered, and I appreciate it so much.

So while the show will never go down in history as one to entertain the masses, it had great meaning for me. It brought me back to where it all began - literally, because we performed on my high school stage - and left me comforted by voices from my past which were now blissfully part of my present.

And when it was over, when the final bows had been taken, I stood in the wings, looking out onto that stage where so many memories have been made. Sometimes, you can go home again.

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