I just finished a run for a show today (mentioned previously – 42nd Street), which is always sad, and now I’m feeling nostalgic. So, get ready for one of my more personal posts.
Though I call myself Malcolm the Cynic, I portray a pretty happy front here. I’ve been published recently, I’ve been networking with various authors, I got into a show, and I was asked to write with the crew at Superversive SF. But, of course, that’s not the whole story.
Let me back up first.
Going into my junior year of high school I was doing much better than I was in middle school, because unlike in middle school (where I’d gotten into multiple fights) the guys in my Catholic high school tended to leave me alone as long as I didn’t bother them. Over time, thanks to cross-country, track, and sheer inertia (always being around the same people for certain sections of the day), I made friends. Though I visited their homes a few times, we weren’t that close, and I lived a good half hour away from everybody else. Visits were possible but had to be pre-planned.
When I was a junior loneliness and stress at my schoolwork got the better of me, and I had what I’ll call for lack of a better term a minor panic attack. I was finally convinced that I needed to do something I enjoyed more than sports (which I did more because they were there than because I really enjoyed them). Originally I was just going to do stage crew, but I was talked into trying out for the school plays by a loved one.
I’ll never forget my first drama club meeting Everybody in the play knew everybody else, and the typical freshman to senior distinctions were virtually non-existent. One of the directors knew me because she had recently called my spanish class a group of, and I quote, “cretinous reprobates”. The other director ended the rehearsal with a monologue from the musical “Nunsense”.
Well, I auditioned, and to my great shock I ended up with, all told, seven callbacks, and later ended up with the largest role I got called back for. That role was for Bellomy in “The Fantasticks”, and I can still remember the words to every song in that show. The cast was tight-knit, and I discovered that I really loved acting.
The first long conversation I ever had with a female was because of that show (I am not even slightly exaggerating, by the way – Yes, I was that bad). I made friends, and my other friends ended up getting involved in various capacities, and we became a lot closer.
Everything changed for me. Suddenly I was talking to people, and we were working on something bigger than ourselves. As anybody involved in a true “team” sport will tell you (track has teams, but its not the same) this will inevitably create a bond. My social skills improved a billion fold (meaning I went from “incapable of talking to anybody but my friends” to “awkward but friendly and able to carry a conversation”), and I was able to RELAX and enjoy myself.
I could go on more about how much my life changed because of theatre, but suffice to say that I could confidently call myself happy. Though I had other issues during my senior year, at least I had friends.
It would be a gross exaggeration to say theatre saved my life. I was not, and never have been, depressed, which is a mental illness that I thankfully have never had to experience the horrors of, and suicide wasn’t even close to on the radar. However, it would NOT be an exaggeration to say that before theatre my life was dull and pathetic, and I was miserable and lonely. Without theatre saving me, I honestly don’t know what would have happened to me.
Well, I left high school, and left behind most (though not all) of my friends, and got involved in schoolwork. Now I was working evenings, and was at school during the day, and commuting forty minutes to school and back. My social life disappeared, and with it, my social skills. I became unable to talk to people outside of a classroom context. Extracurricular activities vanished, and I only communicated with people online (this, by the way, is one reason I actually dislike the folks who yell about living our social lives online. You really think I didn’t want to talk to my friends in person? It was online or we were never speaking again). I started the blog around when I started to get really lonely and miserable again.
During the summer I considered auditioning for a local show, but didn’t like the choices offered. Finally, this year, a loved one half-bullied me into it.
It was the best thing to happen to me since I started college.
Each rehearsal I would walk in, sit in the back, and wait until I had to go on stage (remember, I had no idea how to talk to people outside of general introductions). But when you’re around a like-minded group of people all working towards a common goal, you’re bound to get to know them. It’s only a matter of time. And though it took awhile, I did manage to make friends with a few people. We plan to meet up next week, in fact.
This past week, the last week of the show, when I realized the people I was friend-ly with were actually considering themselves my friends, I was able to finally relax, and enjoy being there and being surrounded by everybody. So it’s sad that the last show has finally ended. But I can’t say it wasn’t worth the experience.
Did it save my life? No. I was never suicidal.
Did it turn my life around from the life of a lonely, pathetic loser to somebody who was, at least, starting to take steps to improve himself, relearn social skills, and start actually attempting, not just to survive college, but to be happy again?
Yes. Yes it did.
Is this the world of theater, generally, corrupt and immoral? Undoubtedly, but I’m not a part of that world. I’m a visitor who associates himself with only the parts he wants to see. It’s a shame that the theater world is so insanely immoral, but that’s the truth I need to face. So as much as I love theater and would love to pursue it as a career, I simply can’t justify it either economically or morally. But I’m always going to be involved with it somehow.
So, here’s to theatre. Say what you will about show business, but without theatre who knows where I’d be today? I love acting, I love performing, I love watching the shows, but most importantly, I love the people.
Also, remember that what you see on here doesn’t always reflect what’s actually happening in my life. The truth is that, before the show started, the answer was “shockingly little”, which was exactly the problem. The key now is to keep up my momentum and find a way to continue re-learning my social skills to the point that I don’t need to sit silently in the back of the room because I don’t know what to say. This was a very, very good start.