The theatre company I forgot I started
+ a magic spell of curiosity
Last weekend I met with some old theatre friends. The kind of friends who have a unique perspective because you’ve known each other for almost 30 years. The kind of friends who you can go a long time without seeing but it’s like time never passed when you hug.
Somehow, even though you may feel different, there’s something about the way you know each other that goes beyond any new identities, jobs, relationships or locations. It’s a bit like meeting each other’s essence and is so very special.
As we were talking, one of my old friends shared how important the time we spent doing Shakespeare in the Park was for him. You may not know, but theatre used to be a big part of my life. I almost became a professional stage manager but it’s something I very rarely think about now.
I told him the story of how Raven Black, the Shakespeare in the Park theatre company I co-founded back in the mid-1990s, was formed…
[Cue: pretty photos from my mother’s garden and my enchantment walks]
My co-founder and I were out to lunch at East Side Mario’s and I casually mentioned that I missed stage managing. We were both students at the University of Waterloo. He was a PhD candidate studying Shakespeare and I was going from program to program trying to figure it all out.
Anyway, over the course of our lunch, I suggested we start a theatre company. Like it was no big deal. Which we did. Like it was no big deal.
That simple conversation resulted in producing several plays a season for several summers.
And it struck me: I didn’t say, “I miss stage managing, why don’t I go and see which local theatre companies need a stage manager.”
I said, “Let’s start a theatre company.”
We had no personal money (in fact those were the days we counted our literal pennies to buy pasta for dinner) and we had no professional backing or funding.
We didn’t write a government grant proposal. We simply booked a room for auditions, put posters up, secured the bandshell in Waterloo Park, and began.
It’s a story very few people ever knew, and what struck me is how easy it can be to just decide to do something and then do it.
It also struck me that I had virtually forgotten about it myself and I’d basically written it out of my life history.
[Cue: more pretty photos from the date I took myself out on + my new hair]
So, when my friend talked fondly about that time in Raven Black,
…and his fiancée (whom I was meeting for the first time) knew all about it,
…and I found out last week that several former members of the company made a pilgrimage to that old park bandstand we spent many a hot summer day rehearsing and performing in,
…well, I had this sense that what we started during that East Side Mario’s lunch actually had a lasting impact.
It was very touching. I am grateful for that lost twenty-something-year-old girl who just had an idea, wasn’t afraid to say it out loud, and then do something about it.
And it’s got me thinking that this has always been my way.
Almost everything I’ve ever created has come from an independent free-spirited question I was trying to answer or an experience I wanted to have. Every program, every piece of writing, everything I’ve planned began in a very innocent curious place. Perhaps, it’s my zone of genius…but try saying that on an elevator in two sentences or less!
So, here’s the formula I couldn’t have planned but is there nonetheless:
Uncensored inspiration followed by focused action resulting in meaningful experiences (that matter to other people).
Add a touch of bravery, a pinch of naivety, and a lot of nerve and you’re on to something!
I give you this formula/recipe/magic spell to do what calls to you.
Remember it doesn’t have to be hard or have a ten-point plan. It doesn’t have to lead anywhere other than wherever your curiosity takes you.
Thinking of this makes me want to raise my arms in the air and twirl.
But that’s just me.
You do you!