Sunday, April 13, 2008

Theatre people

Yesterday night Philip Clarkson, a set and costume designer and an old Vancouver friend of Nicky Cavendish's, threw a small party to welcome her to Toronto.  It was a treat for me to be part of a group of theatre people once more.  Except for nine weeks doing Wendy Wasserstein's "The Sisters Rosensweig" in Vancouver in 1996, I have not acted onstage since the fall of 1980, when I discovered I was pregnant and transferred my energies to writing (and babies).

I lived in the theatre for a decade; it's a language I still know how to speak and don't have much chance to use, but did last night.   At the party were actors, designers and a dramaturge, who embarked on fervent discussion and gossip about Stratford and Canadian Stage, the emergence of "artistic producers" in Canada, the lack of money and vision and Canadian plays; about Nicky's exhaustion in a much too-short rehearsal process.  How heated, how energetic and out-going they were.  Theatre people are theatrical even when not at work; they do voices and perform with perfect timing; they're hilarious, melodramatic, riveting.  I miss the warmth of that contact and immediacy, sometimes, in my new desk job.  I miss the camaraderie of the troupe and the instant feedback from an audience.

Writers sit alone in a room.  They're as crazy as actors but in a different way - committing thoughts and words to paper in the hopes that one day, maybe not until years later, someone will read.  Someone, perhaps, if they do their work well enough and are lucky or wise or talented or timely enough to get it out into the world, will listen.  Actors know instantly if something is working or not; writers may never know.  And yet, though writing is hard and lonely and pays just as poorly, I think it's much easier than performing.

At an opening once, an old theatre friend introduced me to a cast member. "Beth used to be an actor," he said.  "She got out."  


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