Friday, November 13, 2009

A Meaningful Weekend to Come

This may not be about puppets, but I have to share.

This weekend I'll be traveling home for a drama club reunion. The school finally passed a levy that allows for a much needed new high school to be built. This means that they are tearing down a beautiful old theater with generations of memories from shows that changed the lives of so many people, not just high school students, but community theater actors and small touring troupes too. This is the stage responsible for Kyle and I meeting in a community theater production of Oliver...Heck, even a young Tom Hanks came through while working for a small theater company years before anyone knew his name.

The biggest disappointment though, is the generation of thespians who signed their names on the green room walls upon initiation into troupe #946. To any visitor, the hundreds or maybe even thousand+ names would look like graffiti meant to deface school property, but to us the names mean an enormous amount of commitment to arguably the best organization that town has to offer. I think I learned more about myself and about professionalism within those walls, than I have learned anywhere else.

I worked with people there that put a ridiculous amount of energy and passion into creating art together... something I've missed about performing anywhere since. We might have been a poor Ohio high school, but some of the most professional artists I've ever worked with were right there on that stage, too busy battling puberty and high school hormones to notice how good they really were.

This weekend is the last chance 40+ years will have to visit their old stomping ground before it is knocked down and the new space is built up. It will be the last time for us to touch the walls (and ceilings in my case) where we proudly painted our names. It will be the last time to visit the prop room and catwalk where we snuck away with girlfriends and boyfriends. It will be the last time to climb up on the roof, or up through the secret hole in the ceiling... so many memories were shared there, so many lines, so many laughs hang in the auditorium air.

It's hard to believe it will actually be gone.

I'm so thankful there will be a new one in it's place though, so that generations to come wont miss out on the same kinds of experiences that changed our lives. It's a horror that theaters everywhere across the country, especially high schools, are forced to be abandoned because of budget cuts. I can't remember a thing about any of my gen-ed classes in high school, but I can remember performing in that space years before high school in community theater...The Sound of Music was my first show ever. I remember 60+ performances (if you count band, choir, and orchestra) that shaped who I am today and for a town with a fast dying economy- even before the recession- I can't imagine life without that theater.

While I'm excited to see what the new school will look like, I'm not sure what it will be like to visit once there's nothing to call my own. The only part of the building that will be left is the oldest, which cannot be torn down since it is considered a Historical Landmark having been built in the 1800s as the "First Chartered High School West of the Allegheny Mountains". Of course this was the part of school I tried hardest to avoid as it was where I had most of my English classes, so it doesn't mean as much. Perhaps it will now.

I'll always have a strong sense of pride for that school. I have so much to be thankful for because of it.