Truth is stranger than fiction, but sometimes, fiction can help people get through some pretty difficult truth. After my three older children left home, I started Project Ruth Ann. I’m not particularly good at taking care of myself when in the throes of taking care of everyone else, and this particular season, with only one child at home, left me with some time to invest outside my normal pursuits. I went on a diet, wrote a few books, launched a business, started piano lessons, and joined the local community theater. In college, I majored in English education and minored in psychology, but I also earned a concentration in drama; however, my college performances were restricted to a traveling musical team rather than the drama department productions. I always loved drama, though.
Our little local civic theater lured me in with their production of Little Shop of Horrors, and I couldn’t wait to audition for their next feature, a musical review of Academy Award nominees and winners. Later, I was cast as Grace Farrell, Daddy Warbucks’ able assistant from Annie and Mrs. Peterson, Albert’s guilt-trip-inducing mother in Bye Bye Birdie.
Life has picked up speed for me. After a two-year reprieve, I’m busy again running a business, teaching, and helping care for others. Even though I’ve put my weight back on and stopped the piano lessons, my heart was too connected to theater to drop that pursuit. It was my connection to community–a connection I hadn’t realized was so important until I thought I might have to give it up.
You see, community theater is the perfect place to meet people around me with whom I may not see eye to eye on politics, religion, or social policy but who share a sense of responsibility to preserve something bigger than themselves. They invest in those around them passionately and pass on that passion to the children who visit and catch the vision of giving back to their neighbors, if only for one night of laughter.
Back stage we see children learn to cheer one another on, adults put aside differences so the show will run smoothly, businessmen, doctors, and fast food workers sit side by side and chat as equals, and everyone puts his own needs aside to make sure the whole show is performed with excellence.
Just like anyone else, these actors have struggles. They run from practice to lessons, school drop offs to pick ups, dental appointments and dance recitals. Some lose their jobs and can’t make ends meet, and others suffer loss of loved ones or painful divorces. For a short time, though, they get to step into a role and be someone else. Somehow the experience sets real life in order, at least for a moment.
Next time you think you need a little therapy, try a little theater instead.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.