"Often Laura thought how happy and how fortunate she was. Nothing anywhere could be better than being at home with the home folks, she was sure."
-THOSE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS, Laura Ingalls Wilder
In THOSE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS, Laura becomes a teacher for the first time and begins teaching twelve miles away from home. She returns every weekend (thanks to Almanzo Wilder and his cutter) to spend time with her family. Like Laura, I, too, experienced a kind of homecoming this week.
I don't know what I expected to find in Texas, but the last thing I expected to find was my own sort of homecoming. People do say that "Everything's bigger in Texas"-- they're right. I've met people with some of the biggest hearts in Texas. In particular, it was a pleasure working with the high school drama club students and teachers at Abilene High School. You could tell that these kids live for being a part of the theater program at their school and some even shared their aspirations of working in theater.
Now, I've always enjoyed playing team sports, not just because of my competitive nature, but because of my passion for working with others to achieve a goal. It was not until recent years that I discovered that my love of team sports and theater were not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, what I enjoy most about making theater is working with the entire company as a team. For me, creating with others is everything. The theaters I performed in this past week reminded me of that. Here were drama club students and arts council members (many working as volunteers) who simply wanted to help make our show happen and to bring theater to kids. I only worked with these folks for a couple of hours, but we were in fact a team.
These high school students as well as the local arts councils and community theater who showed us immense generosity and gracious hospitality in both North Carolina and Texas have reminded me about the theater home I come from in central Massachusetts, a place where I was a part of my first "theater team". Worcester County Light Opera Company's playhouse on Grandview Ave was a home for me as a kid, where I felt that the only person I needed to be was myself. I could share my sense of humor and my love of work freely, whereas at school, I didn't always have that luxury amongst my peers. I spent hours observing the adults around me, listening to their jokes, and believing whole-heartedly at ten years old that I could be their very best friend. Every adult greeted me with open-arms.
Working alongside the arts council members and drama club members in NC and TX reminded me how it feels to be a part of a tight-knit theater community and brought me right back to my own happy golden years, performing back in central MA. Thankfully, I've found new theater communities to be a part of within NYC, but WCLOC will always hold a special place in my heart. It's there where I learned that theater is a place in which I am safe to see and be seen because my teammates always held me up.
Signing off from my hotel in Abilene, TX (which has an infestation of Grackles outside)