Posts Tagged ‘shy kids expression outlet’

Kindness of Strangers

May 4, 2009


Theater has been a wonderful venue for me to escape my own shyness*.  Starting in university with one-act plays, student projects, and one full play, I found myself enjoying the challenge of assuming roles.  I also enjoyed the applause…don’t we all need that**?  After graduation and getting a job, I found I had little time or energy to engage further in theater activities.  Then, about 10 years ago (and at the urging of Girl Child who saw my desire to express myself), I was reintroduced to theater and fell in love with it all over.

Starting out with church plays, I soon expanded my scope to community theater.  Like an addiction, it was.  Doing theater at one theater group which I sort of call ‘home’, I ran into someone who called a different, nearby theater group ‘home’.  Invited there, I got a nice role in one of their plays.  Then off to another theater group.  Then a fourth (yes, there are a lot—too many?—local community theater groups).  While I still call my first community theater ‘home’, I consider myself an eclectic and itinerant actor.

When first getting into community theater, I found myself auditioning for and acting anywhere and anytime.  Some of this was escapism from the situation at home with The Spouse.  Some of it was escapism from the shyness.  Some of it was the raw thrill of being in front of an audience and getting them to react positively to me.  So, I would do one play after another, exhausting myself in the process.  I’ve since been a bit more selective.  Some of that selectivity is based on the quality of the play.  Some on who else would be in the play (friends!).

A couple years back, I was selected for strong roles in plays in the ‘varsity’ community theater group.  While not professional, it is considered one of the better venues to do acting in the local area.  I was honored to be selected to act there—twice!

And on the cusp of acting there a third time, my brother’s diagnosis came in.  Theater was set aside.  I didn’t want to be involved in a show and have to choose between supporting my brother (or going to his funeral) and supporting castmates.  I knew my brother would win that choice.  And, knowing how I would feel if one of my fellow actors bailed on me—yes, even to support a sick brother—I decided to just not act.

…and I missed it…

For 18 months, I demurred from auditioning.  Between the impending divorce and other life issues, though, I didn’t feel that I had the energy to begin again.

…until I realized the “Kindness of Strangers”.  Well, not really a stranger.  One of my director friends was directing a play and was having difficulty filling a bit-part role*** in “Streetcar Named Desire”.  She asked me to take one, knowing I preferred ‘meatier’ roles.  Looking for karma points for future auditions…and wanting to get back into the swing of theater…I accepted the role of the Doctor who comes to cart off the now-crazy Blanche Dubois.  On for only the last five minutes of the play and with only 4 short lines, I’m the one Blanche throws the famous line to:  “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

While it was a small role, it brought me back to theater.

Back to escapism.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers…


*Those who ‘sort of’ know me are astounded by my-self ascribed shyness.  “But you’re so outgoing,” they say.  Well, yeah.  That’s cover up.  I consider myself an overcompensating shy guy.  I WANT to be out there and involved with people.  So I push my own envelope and put myself in situations that are less-than-comfortable for me.  It works, though I still consider myself ‘shy’.

**Wouldn’t it be great if, in our day-to-day jobs, we had a mini-audience who would applaud at our smallest successes—“Oh, did you see how he turned a phrase when writing that report?  Brilliant…” <clap-clap-clap-clap->.

***Bit parts are tough.  You may be on stage in the background most of the play…or have 2 or 3 lines… irrespective, despite the size of the role, you are expected to fully support a rehearsal schedule, plus set build and tear down.