Seven. That’s how old I was when I took part in my first theatrical production with Mason Community Players, or MCP, as anyone in the group calls it. We did Fiddler on the Roof that year, and I remember almost the entire cast. Fast forward four more years, after we’d moved to Pennsylvania and back and were facing unfamiliar challenges, and we kind of got back in…? Ish. My mother and siblings and I, we took part in the musical production Damn Yankees as part of the ensemble. But, the show wasn’t what I enjoyed. In fact, I dreaded actually getting onstage so that I could watch with all the other kids and wait for the actors to get their lines right so we could have our two seconds of fame tossed in at the end of the scene. It was the same way in Fiddler, sitting on benches and holding candles and walking in circles. None of it was fun, not a minute was entertaining.
Yet I still looked forward to practices, and I still looked forward to the show. Not because of the play itself, but because of the people involved. There’s a reason I’ve remained dedicated to MCP since fifth grade, without trying any shows in more popular groups like Acting Up! or Children’s Theater. I just can’t see them giving me what MCP has given. It’s difficult to describe, the effect the group has had on me, but I’ll attempt to do so anyway.
Before my first role with a name, before I first discovered a love of theater, I found my love of the people. Moving back from Pennsylvania was hard, and leaving everyone I’d made a real connection with from Kindergarten to Fourth grade was heart-wrenching. It was even harder coming to turns with the financial trouble my family was in, and learning to understand the idea of change. I didn’t like it. I wanted the same house I’d had before, the same friends, the same playground within walking distance on my house, the same man at the grocery store that always slipped me extra stickers when we went in his line. I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t go back, or the fact that this was the school I’d be going to now, the grocery store I’d be walking around, the rich families I’d be hanging out with that made me feel inferior. Everything was so foreign, except for MCP. The people had changed, and some had left, and others had joined, but the environment was still the same. The boys I’d known at sixteen four years ago were men now, but they were still there. The stage I’d known had a new set, but it was still there. The girl who’d babysat my siblings and I, Emily, was heading off to college, but she was still there. They were all still by my side, still laughing with me and playing games backstage and singing and dancing and it was all so familiar in an environment filled with unusual and weird new everything. And seeing the way things and people could change, without disappearing? That’s what I believe helped me transition from a school of 500 to a school of 3,000. That’s what I believe helped me grow comfortable with the peers I had around me, and the neighbors I had never met before.
I owe the group a lot, though none of it is visible. I don’t know if anyone, not even myself, can see the gifts from MCP I received and still carry with me. But I know I can still feel them. I’ve been taught how community changes. How it can be for the better, or for the worse, but change is a part of the world we live in. Change is not something we fear, not something we control, not even something we dwell on. Change is something that opens new doors and closes the ones we were never meant to walk through. It’s the only way we grow, the only way we move on, and, despite how it might feel, it’s never the end of the world. Change, however gradual or immediate it currently is, is just the knew people we haven’t met, the old ones we haven’t seen in a while, the things we have yet to do, and the ones we haven’t done in too long. The funny thing is, whether it’s a person or a thing, they were always there. No matter how new it is to you, it was always there. And it always will be. Everything is always there. It just takes a while for you to come back, sometimes.
I needed to be reminded of this recently. It was hard. But it’s change, and MCP is a community. So it changes.
I’m dedicating this post to Jason Holt, former elected president of MCP for two years, practice dance partner, lighting designer, and a friend, who passed away this weekend. Thanks for…for being a part of my change. You played just as big a part as anyone.