I was a theater kid. I held my best friend captive while I sang a Sondheim medley. A musical score swelled around me when I walked to the bus stop. I recited Juliet’s balcony scene to anyone who would listen.
My older brother told me that there was nothing more boring than a theater person who couldn’t talk about anything but theater, but I was possessed.
It was just a matter of time before I’d be discovered. Opportunity knocked in 9th grade, when I was in the chorus of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, directed by the formidable Mrs. Evans. I wasn’t fooling around when I sang—no, bellowed–about driftwood fires and red-hot lobsters.
One night, rehearsal came to a standstill. Mrs. Evans walked over to me and asked—no, ordered—me to pleasestopover-acting.
I did stop over-acting.
In fact, I stopped acting. Entirely.
* * *
Last September, I assumed PMP kids were theater kids, just like I was. But Kim Stauffer told me that a passion for theater was emphatically not a prerequisite for participation. PMP was about using theater to access everyday truths. These truths were arrived at via theater exercises and improvs and eventually a script. Along the way, connections would be forged and the world, which could seem so out of control, might feel a little bit more manageable.
When PMP met last Thursday, after a snow day and school vacation week, the mood was upbeat. There was a read-through of the final script, and everyone agreed that playwright-in-residence Chris Newbound’s revisions really worked. Kate reminded the group that rehearsals would begin full-tilt the following week.
Suddenly it was:
Four more sessions.
Three hours each.
All of a sudden, time was being measured in weeks, rather than months.
Before PMP left for the night, Kate announced that in the next two weeks, everybody had to be off script. I waited a beat for the whines and protestations. They never arrived. But just in case there was any lingering doubt, Kate told them, “I know we can totally do this!”
Maybe that’s because these kids are exactly where they belong.
* * *
And my short-lived acting career? It took a while, but eventually I had to admit that though her methodology might have been heartless, the formidable Mrs. Evans was correct. I started to write and never looked back.
Penning a play might not be as glamorous as being Julie Jordan. But my everyday truth is this: it always feels good to be where you belong.
Meet our PMP Blogger
Jane Denitz Smith is a proud member of Dramatists Guild, through whose aegis she recently held a staged reading of Death by Chocolate and Barbecue, new full-length plays. Most recently, Spread My Ashes By the Rental was part of the Made in the Berkshires Festival. Last May, Mary Durning’s Soup and Other Cultural Divides was included in Boston Theatre Marathon. Ten-minute plays have workshopped in Jen Whiting’s Ten-Minute-Play Workshop podcasts and, in 2011, scenes from After Prom, a full-length play, were staged as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Jane is the author of three Young Adult novels, published with HarperCollins. She teaches and lives with her family in Williamstown, Mass.