Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Returning to My Youth

Greg at 14 years old.
There is something so special about working in the theater. My earliest 'job' was doing theater for children the summer after my 8th grade year which continued all through high school. (I say job because eventually we would receive stipends for directing plays.) I started my writing career for the stage with that group. I got to play roles such as Charlie Brown, a Prince, Dracula, an old man in Rumpelstiltskin. And the friendships made and that have endured to this day from those summers of theater were really amazing.

This week, I've returned to that time again. No, I didn't get into a time machine and return to the 80s, but I have been asked to play one of the dads in the NJSDA Encore Series production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee". Such a fun show, but more importantly - I love watching these teens & tweens at work. And I'm transported back to that incredible time in my life. Sure, these kids today have cellphones to pull out and text and take photos during rehearsals to post to social media (something we never had), but that feeling of being involved in something that only a small group can understand is still the same. I see the bonds they create with each other. Coming back show after show to work together. Being so supportive of each other during 'notes' when different actors get praise from the director. I've been managing the arts center where I work for 6 years now and this group started performing there not too long after I took over the job.  Last night I went through online photos and videos of those previous shows only to remember how incredible it is to watch some of these kids grow up in front of my eyes - doing what they love.

The creative team behind the shows are people that love to be with kids: and you can tell.

Halloween 1983: Greg as Dracula
I've always had a fondness for those people that throw their heart and soul into creating theater for children. The woman who ran the company when I started doing it believed we (as the kids) could do anything. From writing to directing and spending two months doing four back-to-back shows a summer. She instilled a 'can do' attitude in us early on. (Thanks, Gayle!)

Then when I moved to NYC, I worked with a theater company in NJ that not only sent me around the country in a Ninja Turtle costume - but performing fairy tales and plays at libraries, schools, and malls. The woman behind that company knew how to stay young at heart and still runs her company to this day.

I received my equity card doing Theater for Young Audiences. The NY woman behind that company not only LOVED the shows she would create, but also each cast that she sent out on the road to perform for schools across the country; counting each of them as family.

I'm sure this is why I've set my latest novel COOL SIDE OF THE PILLOW in the world of a children's theater company. I know the magic that place can be.  Plus all the women I've seen running these groups have shaped my life in one way or another and in my twisted world of fiction writing - I can thank them with a nod of the pen.

And now Corinna and Terri are doing the same with their group. And for this one small 
week, I got to experience it all over again.

I'm so grateful to Corinna and all of them for allowing me to experience this one more time in life. (What 43 year old man gets to travel back 30 years like this? Awesome!)

The cast of Spelling Bee 2013

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