Just the other week, my high school drama club teacher came to visit Chicago with her family and we met up for dinner. It was wonderful to be able to tell her that I was still working in theater after all these years and actually “doing it” in the big city. But what was even lovelier was reminisce about the memories of the shows I had worked on with her. In her eyes, she still sees me as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors when I was in eighth grade. Or as Mordred in Camelot when I came home from college for summer vacation.
But what really struck me was one memory in particular that she pointed out. At the age of thirteen, I had been asked to play one of the dead bodies in the community theater production of Arsenic and Old Lace probably because I did not weight that much and would be easy to drag around. But also because they knew I would be responsible, work hard, and enjoy working on the production. And I loved it. I relished hanging out with the adults in the cast and being the only young person around. And being the only young person, I was honored and felt very grown-up when I was invited to the cast party. And it was at this cast party that the director and my old teacher came up with the idea that I should attend Interlochen Arts Camp.
That one idea sparked a chain of events that lead me to where I am now. I worked hard preparing for my audition with the help of my drama teacher and I was accepted. It was at Interlochen that I learned about Northwestern University and their theater program. One of the students who had just graduated high school was beginning his theater studies at Northwestern in the fall (it also didn’t hurt that Northwestern won back-to-back and unexpected Big Ten championships about the same time – Big Ten Football was and continues to be very important to me). Going to Northwestern introduced me to my Lighting Design professor who formed the connection that made me an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre Company. While I was at Northwestern, I studied with Mary Zimmerman, who got me an interview for a position at Lookingglass Theater. While I didn’t get the position, I did get free tickets to a show called 500 Clown Macbeth which changed my outlook on theater – and seven years later I was asked to work on a show with 500 Clown. Because I went to Northwestern, I met the friend who introduced me to my wife.
So as I was sitting there, talking with my old drama teacher, this web of connections washed over me. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities she provided for me. For all the hours of rehearsal and building sets and pulling costumes and focusing lights that she did for all of us. I’m thankful for being taught teamwork and responsibility and empathy. But most of all, I was thankful for just having the chance to have dinner, catch up, and remember the old times.