I’ve gone to a lot of camps in my life. In middle school, I went to science camp. It’s about as fun as it sounds. In high school, I went to a Christian-focused YMCA camp. And that was a lot wilder than it should’ve been. I also went to a Volleyball camp every summer because at one point I really thought I’d play beach volleyball professionally.
All camps, whether they’re about physics, Jesus, or not getting hit in the face with a flying ball, kind of all have the same feel to them. You go through intense experiences very quickly and form what feel like forever bonds. And sometimes they’re forever and sometimes they’re not.
I think that whoever came up with the modern approach to American theatre maybe went to camp too. Because theatre is a lot like camp. There’s dress up, tears, ill-fated relationships, deep and intense empathy, and of course, like camp, it has to end. You have to go back home. It’s expiration dating but with a job instead of a person.
You know when the show closes before you ever even start rehearsing*.
And part of it is really cool. I’ve gotten to see so many different parts of the country. I’ve met so many amazing new people. And I’ve met some people I’m going to tell stories about at dinner parties or the next time I’m in a bar with friends.
But it’s the fleeting bit that’s tricky. As a playwright, there’s something truly miraculous about being able to see your words come to life. When I write a play, I have a picture in my mind but I’m collaborative. My worst fear is that a designer will come up with the same picture I had in my head. I want to see something I can’t see on my own. I wanna see magic. I want to see how my work inspires another person’s work. What’s something they can show me that I didn’t know? Whenever I look at all the names on the program, I’m overwhelmed with joy. All of those people (and me) came together and we created something. We made that’s going to last for only a moment but what an amazing moment that will be.
The tricky part is I’m also someone who likes to have intense personal connections. Really intense is an understatement. I want to know about your favorite color, your favorite food, how many pets you’ve had, what’s the best thing that’s ever happened, what’s the worst, what were your parents like, what were your siblings like, where did you grow up, what was your first fight about….
You get it.
I want to know everything. And that’s just not always constructive. Or wanted. Having to learn boundaries has been difficult. I can’t roll into a rehearsal room like “Let’s get dark y’all.” I would love to but I probably shouldn’t. So I meet a lot of people on the surface level. I learn their names and maybe their sign if I’m pushy about it. But that’s it. We all go in to create magic but the curtain is never fully pulled back.
And honestly being a playwright is isolating. You’re not really in with the actors or the designers. Either you and the director click immediately or you’re just working together politely and both of you trying not to stab the other one in public. Usually, the stage manager is ready to peace out as soon as they close up (which I completely get) and the designers are moving on to the next thing after tech.
I think a lot of playwrights are introverts so it’s not that big of a deal but I’m not. I wanna be your friend and I wanna get heavy.
My go-to is to make friends with the stage manager first because usually they like my “What about so and so? Can we set them on fire later” approach to humor. Then, I try to befriend the lighting designer because lights is the one part of tech I’m comfortable with. And then the director. And then, maybe, the actors.
I’ve been lucky with this Barrington production. The management team, the director, the actors, they’re all wonderful. And we go out and have fun and I don’t feel as alone. It’s pretty extraordinary. It feels like we’re functioning as a team. And I’m proud of what our team has put up.
But like camp, in the end,I have to go home.
I hope the friendships and connections I’ve made are lasting but there’s just no way to know. I’m still learning how to, as my grandmother would say, “appreciate the sunlight when it’s still daytime.” Living in the moment is hard. But at least sometimes the moment is absolutely 100% gorgeous.
(This is a piece of street art I saw in Pittsfield on North Street and loved it. It’s so cool.)
PRO-TIP: If you’re ever in Pittsfield, Mass, there’s a bookstore called The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar. Go. It’s super cute and you drink wine while you read.
*There are exceptions to this of course. The show closes early or the show is extended but you get the point.