Back On Campus: A Pseudo/Theatre Reunion

Almost 30 years ago, I graduated from college.  During my 4 years on campus I was pretty active in the theatre department.  Upon reflection, I had my hand in every mail stay production during my time there, whether it was on stage or behind the scenes.  After graduation, I still had plenty of friends on campus and I would go back and see productions and friends.  But as time went on, and my life took twists and turns that I didn't anticipate, I haven't been back in 20 or so years.

That all changed one recent weekend.  The theatre department was performing the musical, "Runaways."  The last time it had been done was 30 years ago and I had been the stage manager.  A very wise woman who heads the department took to social media to get as many people who had been involved in the original production to come back on Saturday night to see the new one.  How could I resist?

I couldn't.  

I initially thought I would drive up and stay over, but plans for Sunday prevented that.  I didn't like the idea of driving up and back by myself at night (since it's been a while since I've been in the general area).  It was suggested that I bring my son along and although he's 12 and the recommended age group for the show is 13+ (the topic of runaways in NYC in the 1970s is not a pretty one, even with music), and I did.  Bought my tickets on line (we are definitely into the 21st century now!) and didn't even have to print them out.  (The joy of smart phone technology and keeping things green.  I guess ticket stub collecting is a thing of the past.)

So late on Saturday afternoon (since the show started at 7 and there was a "pre show" reunion with wine and snacks for the adults and cider and snacks for the under 21 set), the kid and I headed out.  It was a beautiful drive, as it has always been.  EXCEPT (and you knew there had to be an except, right?) that my tire pressure sensor light went on while I was driving.  Scared the crap out of me, but I kept going. (For right or wrong; what was I going to do?)

About an hour and a half later, we pulled onto the campus.  Things DO change after 20 years!  New buildings, but the same feel as I drove up.  Found a place to park down the hill from the college center where the theater is and made our way up just as the sun was setting.

Going inside, things had definitely changed. A REAL box office, as opposed to a table with tickets, existed now.  Not that I needed tickets.  (I've got my electronic ones.)  But walking away from the window is a friend who I hadn't seen in nearly 30 years.  (Although we are friends on social media...that doesn't count.)  How could we not squeal and hug?  But the BEST thing was when we were being escorted to "the green room" (which is not green) through the snack bar area (no more booths!  Now there is change that I CANNOT deal with), I happened to glance over behind the counter and there was the daughter of another friend (who just happened the roommate of the woman I had just squealed at and hugged) working there.  She is a freshman, following somewhat in her mother's footsteps.  Now everything had to be stopped and photos HAD to be taken.  (See, there definitely WAS a reason I needed my son to come along.)  How embarrassed (or freaked out) the poor girl was, I don't know.  What I do know is that she was a good egg about it (since she and I have only met once before) and her mom was happy to see the photos.  (You KNOW I had to post to social media IMMEDIATELY, right?)

Photos taken/girl embarrassed/son being a good sport, we move onto the (non) green room where there is more squealing and hugging.  It doesn't matter how long it's been; theatre friends are ALWAYS friends.  And we ALWAYS remember the smallest and quirkiest things. 30 years melted away.  Stories were told.  Memories were shared. And those who are no longer with us, were memorialized in our own unique way. The 45 or so minutes before the show was spent with a little wine, a little food and lots of hugs and photos.  (Ok, so my son was getting a bit tired of being a photographer.)  The time flew by.  I was so glad that we had come out...and we hadn't even seen the show yet.

The theater is small.  Smaller than I remembered.  (But isn't that the way it always seems to be?)  We had seats in the 2nd row, pretty much center stage.  In my opinion, this IS how theatre should be experienced.  (And is why I don't get to Broadway shows.  I want to fully experience a show and that means being part of or as close to the action as you can be.  I loved both "Avenue Q" and "Spamalot," but my memory of the former is much more intense since we had seats just a few rows back from the stage and interacted whereas with "Spamalot" we were in the balcony next to one of the follow spots.)  We were truly immersed in the show and while I worried that it might overpower my son; it didn't.  I couldn't tell if he liked the show or not.  (It's the way he is sometimes.)  When asked he overwhelmingly said he did and when specifically asked what he liked he said that it was the emotion of the actors.  So clearly the kid likes and "gets" theatre.

As for me, I loved it as well.  It was different in some ways from the production that I had done.  For example the cast was smaller.  The show also opened in a unique and creative way in that the cast/kids were already on stage when we entered.  They were "playing" as runaways might in a yard somewhere.  It definitely added a touch of realism (and bleakness when needed.)  

As I sat there, it had been so long that I didn't think I'd recall anything save one song.  ("Find Me a Hero" which I think is the catchiest of all.)  But I quickly found myself mouthing the words (and sometimes lines). And the show, which was only 90 minutes long FLEW by and was over before I knew it.

Because we had an hour and a half drive back, we did not stay long after the show.  (While he loved the show, I don't think my son was too thrilled with hanging out with "older" people for an hour or so when there was no one else his age there.)  A dark ride home (still ignoring the sensor light; which I DID address the next day to the tune of around $100) and we still managed to get to bed before 11 PM.

A memorable evening was the result of the show with its talented actors as well as all of the behind the scenes work (set, costumes, sound and lighting design; I am partial to light design).  I realized how much I missed not just theater, but this theater and the people involved with it which make it so unique.  I already have plans to return for the children's show "Charlotte's Web." (Another show that I was part of many years ago.   Of course the strongest memory I have of that is having a "fence" placed on my little toe.)  And I hope to attend more after that with my family and perhaps with other friends as well.  

Theater and memories...they go well together. 


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