The other day, my mom went to get her hair cut and I tagged along because we were going to go straight from there to the downtown DC adventure I already told you about. She went into the salon and I walked across the street for a coffee, then wandered around the area, looking at houses and kids playing across the street, nothing in particular on my mind. As I rounded the corner, I noticed a sign:
"I'm coming to the matinee tomorrow, actually. I've never seen a show here before; I'm visiting my mom from LA and she's always telling me about your shows. I'm an actor."
"Oh, really? Well, would you like to come in and take a look around?"
Ok, so maybe I used the actor card, but it was in the spirit of friendliness, of solidarity, and it certainly opened some doors... literally. She took me into the closed, empty theatre, and over a conversation about everything from, I worked at the Dock Street Theatre (she's from Charleston!) to the quality of theatre in LA (generally poor) to how hard it is to live far from family, she gave me a private tour of the entire building. I stood in the wings, walked the detailed set, inhaled the sawdust in the shop, perused gobos and fresnels, admired the green room and paced the rehearsal space.
It is a beautiful, clean, obviously well-funded theatre. I was REALLY impressed.
I thanked her for her time, and as I turned to leave, she said, "If you end up coming back to Alexandria, please consider working with us." I said I would and I meant it.
When I met back up with my mom and told her what had just happened and who I'd met, she said, "Nikki... she's a producer; she produces a good number of their shows. You probably met the best person you could possibly meet at that theatre."
Well, well, well. Universe, you got me again.
The next day, we saw their current show and it was remarkably well done. The set and costumes were gorgeous, lighting and sound on par, the acting was solid with a couple stand-outs, and the direction was flawless, handling the challenges of many characters onstage at a time and a static set with creativity and intelligence. There wasn't one element that stood out as being "community theatre" bad; in fact, if you'd told me it was a professional show, I'd have easily believed you. Oh and the audience, for a Sunday matinee, was packed - probably 10 empty seats in the 150 seat house - and Mom said it's been at least that full every time she's been.
A still from "Nude With Violin" [source]
It was as good as, if not better than, most of the professional theatre I've seen. And trust me, I've seen A LOT.
Which begs the question: even though I've been told since college that I'm a professional actor and community theatre equals "Wating for Guffman"-esque frustrations, is it better to work with a sub-par company just because it's professional, or in a community theatre where the shows always have a good budget, the audience is always full, and the artists are dedicated and talented, despite the lack of pay?
Because I think that if I found a job I enjoyed, I could be really happy doing theatre like that, on the side. And that's how I started out... interesting how things go full circle...
Waiting for Guffman (one of my favorite movies of all time... so painfully funny)
Today I am so happy and grateful for:
~ an open mind
~ good theatre, treated with respect
~ happy accidents