Monday, January 15, 2018

Time to Play
Last Friday, I celebrated my first opening night for a scripted show in seventeen years (if memory serves. It doesn't always). The last time I remember having to learn lines, my daughter was three and I was not quite 40.

On Saturday, I got to go to a basketball game with my daughter and her friend (both high school basketball players) to watch one of their friends play. It was a tough game. Tougher than learning lines, though it took less time.

I had no aptitude for sports in high school (still don't) and my daughter, although possessed of more talent onstage than I have on the basketball court, had no desire to do theatre. But each of us found a niche in the thing we loved. Along the way, we put all we had into it -- persisting when things didn't go the way we'd hoped, accepting responsibility, putting in the time, and learning about a lot more than theatre or basketball along the way.

It's easy to say that our high school activities inspire lifelong friendships but, like most blanket statements, it's not entirely true. As with anything else, our activities are the vehicle for all kinds of friends -- ranging from those whose company we tolerate because we have the same end goal to those whose company we continue to seek out long after the play, game or season is over.

But the fact that connections are made is undeniable. The show I'm doing now is a different sort of animal -- a three-act play cast as three one-acts, each act revolving around a different couple. We met at the read-through, then went our separate ways, each act rehearsing separately, only to reunite during tech week to put together a show in which we are all invested. Next weekend, we perform again, then go back to our disparate lives.

My daughter's experience with basketball is quite similar. The girls practice intensely and play hard for a season, forming bonds and getting on each other's nerves. They celebrate together, mourn losses together and forge connections (or don't) of all kinds. Saturday's friends -- the young lady who met us at the game and the young lady we went to watch -- represent two of the friendships that have endured, two of the people my daughter still counts as close friends even though high school basketball has ended and college has taken them in separate directions.

Last night, as we left the theatre, I realized that although I was ready for the break between weekends, I was also looking forward to coming back in a few days. Sure, the performing is fun (why else would I overturn my life for a month and a half?), but the people make it worthwhile. Once again, I'm part of a cast where parting is bittersweet and the reunion is something to look forward to.

Last Friday, as I celebrated my first opening night without my mom to cheer me on, I realized that theatre was, not for the first time, a kind of therapy -- solitary and personal, yet communal and public. Like anything worth doing -- whether artistic, athletic or something else entirely -- it challenges us to bring our best selves to the floor, selves that are shaped and refined through our interaction with words on a page, plays on a white board and those who play with us.

From the outside, theatre and basketball are quite different. But play by play, the game is much the same. Last night, after the show, I got to have dinner with a long-time friend, someone I wouldn't have known were it not for York Little Theatre. Like my daughter and her friends, we picked up right where we left off, feeding the friendship in person before heading back to lives that have gone in different directions. This particular friendship has spanned close to thirty years, if memory serves and my math is right.

Fortunately friendship forgives lapses in memory and math, no matter the path it's forged on.

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