When I was getting ready to move back to Missouri last October, I remember crying to my Mom about how I was scared that this financially forced hiatus would be a huge backtrack in my struggling career as an actor/writer/filmmaker. My Mom tried to comfort me by telling me I could do community theatre. I scoffed and later laughed about the possibility to my professional theatre friends. I couldn’t imagine going back to small-town community theatre after working with people who’s whole lives were the theatre. I was being a through and through theatre snob.
Four months after moving back, I auditioned for play at a local community theatre. The show was Love, Loss, And What I Wore by Nora and Delia Ephron put on by the Springfield Contemporary Theatre – which is a terrific theatre that puts on satisfyingly well-rounded seasons and had just moved into its new home, one that would make many of LA’s 99 Seat Theaters jealous. I would say the day I found out I was cast in the show, my snob immediately began to shrink. After the first week of rehearsals, it was all but disappeared, and by opening weekend, I had fallen in love with the show and my cast and the whole experience. For one, because I got to be an actress again- JUST an actress. I wasn’t a producer/social media/photographer/videographer/editor/actress, I wasn’t expected to bring in a certain amount of audience, I wasn’t expected to do anything but be the best actress I could be and it was utterly liberating. I got to fall in love with the experience and challenge myself and experiment and PLAY. The play, if you are unfamiliar, is kind of a Vagina Monologue type of show, if you substitute vagina’s with clothes. It tells the stories of several women and the things they experienced in their lives. While I had a blast with my more comedic pieces and playing with accents, mannerisms and facial expressions; my favorite scene was the one I played closest to myself. The character’s name was even Amanda, my birth name, and she is talking about her wedding day. On the other side of the stage my cast mate, Adie, playing a butch lesbian, talks about her wedding. As the scene goes on, you start to realize they are talking about the same wedding and we turn to each other to say our vows and kiss. This scene performed in Los Angeles or New York City does not have the same type of impact it does performing it in the Bible belt for a white haired, post-church matinee. There were nights where the audience mostly awwwed with wet eyes as Adie’s Mother asks “Why did they have to do this?” and Amanda’s Mother answers “To honor their relationship.” There were also nights were you could feel disgust and eye averting, and those nights felt the most important.
This same theatre company is putting up The Normal Heart this season- 25 years after it was first produced here in 1989, where there were protests enough to get National Coverage and one of the actor’s houses was burnt down. It’s this kind of passion and bravery that has me excited about doing more theatre here- audiences here need it more than they do in Los Angeles and New York. To identify with characters in a play when you are stuck in a dark theatre and realize you are more like them than you could ever have known in the light of day, is one of the magical, transformative powers of theatre.
What’s more, my second theatre audition here was for Tent Theare’s 2014 Summer Season. Tent Theatre is a Summer Tradition held outside on the Missouri State University campus with seating capacity in the 300’s. They present two musicals and a comedy playing in repertory for six weeks with a specially selected company of students and guest artists. Notable Tent Theatre performers include John Goodman and Kathleen Turner. And I was cast in You Can’t Take It With You, which will be my first Equity Show! For the month of June, I’ll get to leave my cubicle prison and be a full-time, paid actor and I couldn’t be happier or more impatient for June to get here!
I would say the LA theatre snob in me has been rightly put in her place and while my finances are still struggling to recover from yet another punch in the gut tax season, at least one of my goals has come true- I’m falling in love with acting again.