My local theater group has this event every month that celebrates all the birthdays in that one month, because none of us believe we have enough wood to supply a bonfire for every individual occasion. We make that thing a good five feet tall, and keep it going until midnight. Typically, you get the same people every month, which is fine by me. There are still a ton of people who show, and each person who does is one of those who dedicates their personal time and money to the theater as a whole. Just members of the family.
This past weekend, however, had a few newcomers. There is one young woman in the group, Dana, who I consider a very great friend of mine. She’s usually stage managing a show, or volunteering at the group’s fundraisers, or dog sitting our chocolate lab while we’re on vacation. Honestly one of the best people I’ve ever met. She brought a few plus-ones to the bonfire Saturday night, all her friends from high school. Who had not seen each other for seven years until two weeks prior, when they’d decided to strike up a reunion.
When you’re as familiar with MCP as my sister and I are, you pick out the new faces pretty quickly. MCP is almost a second home to us, and definitely an atmosphere where we feel confident, and sure of ourselves. Within the first five minutes, we’d made the first move, cornering them (in the most welcoming way possible) and making our introductions. We found out, rather quickly, that they had all been members of their drama club in high school, so the conversations started off on the best foot. Not just a good foot, the best. I don’t care who you are, if you tall me you’re into theater I consider you one of my people.
They were the most rag-tag group of friends I’d ever seen outside of the movie screens. You know those friendship circle filled with the oddballs, or the misfits, that somehow, miraculously, don’t care about what other people think when they see them? I didn’t know they existed. But they definitely do, and they’re even more fantastic in person. Everything from a comic-book-addicted transgender woman, to a tall, quiet guy with a long ponytail standing in the back in polite but interested silence, to a sassy, sarcastic, larger than life woman limited to a wheel chair. I say limited, but I didn’t actually see it stop her from plunging down the grassy, lumpy hill to get the to bonfire. I say quiet, but everything he did have to say carried a sucker-punch of meaning, whether comedic or a bit deeper than that. I say comic book addicted, but she…well, no. That part is irrefutably true. don’t worry, there’s nothing to be ashamed of as far as being a dork is concerned, I should know.
There were a lot of things that struck me as incredible from this group, but what I found most impressive was how closely they were connected. Years had separated them, yet if Dana hadn’t told me so I would have never known they’d been apart a day in their lives. Instead of talking with the people who I always talk to, instead of listening to show tunes up by the pavement where the crowds of regulars had gathered, I spent the night absorbed by their relationship. Just being on the outskirts of the stories that they told as one voice made me irrationally excited. They played songs from the eighties and knew every note, every lyric, danced around the fire during the opening of Hooked on a Feeling, and belted the words to Bohemian Rhapsody (all songs which I’m proud to say I’m %100 familiar with, thanks to my parents). Despite the fact that not one of them was anything like the other, they all just…fit.
It was kind of inspiring, watching what I hope is the relationship my friends and I have years from now, in action, with people who had overcome their individual obstacles, but remained joined through years of separation. Just another reason I love community theater; even if you’re not a member of the group, you can still come and be a part of us, of who we are, for the night. Maybe they took as much from the sophomore high school journalist as I took from them. That’s the opportunity real community theaters offers.