On rainy weekend days in Brooklyn, growing up, my father, brother, and I used to read plays–dividing up the parts among us. Later, when my brother “dropped out” as an adolescent to hang out with friends, my father and I got more and more-plum parts, of course. (My mother wisely was taking naps during these “staged readings.”)
While I love theater and used to harbor dreams long ago of being a singer-dancer in stage musicals, the reality was the only people who thought I could sing well were my parents (and my shower, if you could personify it). My dancing was on a higher level, but it was still unlikely I was going to be a Broadway hoofer. I even had (embarrassing to admit it) a hard time getting cast in high-school musicals, though I sometimes did OK in plays. Guess it was my lot to write about theater, not necessarily to be in it.
Fast forward a number of years. I now have two kids, each gifted in different ways as it relates to the theater. (Forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but… ) Helena, the elder, has a very good singing voice, but was too self-conscious for the solo parts that came and could have come her way. Cynthia, the younger, was a born “performer,” when it came to words and emotions, but didn’t have the voice that would have gotten her cast in musicals. Now, as young adults, Helena is doing karaoke without much fear, but would probably still shy away from repeated, full performances. Cynthia found directing more to her liking than acting, and in general, has opted for a career in teaching/poetry rather than theater.
Still, I learned something from the years they did spend performing, and from all the productions–community and professional–I’ve watched in NYC, central Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. That is: if you love theater, if you love its collaborative efforts and audiences, there’s more than one way to be involved than acting or solo singing.
First of all, if that’s your dream, you should always try. But if you really don’t feel those are your “thing,” there are so many other “things” you can do to be involved in theater.
I’m not saying anything you don’t know. But just wanted to reiterate that there’s always the chorus, or nonverbal parts. I still remember the impression the actor playing the plumber in Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg’s production of “Barefoot in the Park” made just based on his facial expressions. And there are a ton of things to do behind the scenes, especially in community theater–lighting, sets, costumes, stage managing, assistant stage managing, maybe even directing. Not to mention playing music. Or you could do something vital to the success of a theater but a further step removed–like help with publicity, or sell tickets.
It’s not easy sometimes to convince kids to do anything, but if we can get the point across that there’s no reason not to be involved in something you love just because you’re not “the star” of a production, we would have communicated a very important lesson. See you on stage, or behind it, or near it!