Last week, I had a table at a preview performance of Great Lakes Theater Festival’s new production of The Comedy of Errors (Which was very good, BTW - they didn’t double cast the twins and that made it even funnier. I don’t care if it’s kind of Shakespeare-light, Andrew May is a genius.). I was out in the lobby chatting with some of GLTF’s staff and trustees when a woman mentioned slicing herself with a mandolin (the kitchen tool, not what Sam Bush plays). Because I feel an unending need to contribute anecdotes in these kinds of situations, I chimed in with a story about cutting open fingers with razor blades while I was working in professional theatrical costume shops. Say hello to awkward silence.
I didn’t mean to be all, “I used to be part of the business, I was cool, I wore all black,” but it may have come off that way. I never know what to do with that part of my life. From the time I was 8 until I moved away from Florida in 1997, I was involved in theatre. As a kid, I acted and stage managed and built sets. Most of my friends were Youtheatre kids. Even my brother did plays. When I went to college - it was between Theatre and Math as a major and Theatre won out because I couldn’t give it up.
After graduation, I went into costumes because I thought I could always find a job. And, I was very good. But, noone wants to be an aging first hand. There’s all sorts of crazy stress. You’re lucky to work a nine month contract and not something shorter. Plus, after awhile, it was a little dull. There were only so many sets of pants I could alter. Even period corsets and panniers began to seem boring.
So I started over. I went back to school to get my masters in Arts Administration. I established myself as a writer and I left theatre for public radio. I haven’t been on stage in 26 years. But theatre was still a part of my life longer than it wasn’t.
That’s why I was surprised at my embarrassment over talking about my costume days. My shop days were a few years back, certainly, but I also worked at major LORT A companies for nearly a decade - it wasn’t just a couple of months in summer stock. It is now official that my perception of who I am and where I fit in the world has permanently changed. There is no going back.
I donated some money to GLTF’s building campaign and they gave me a lapel pin that said Re-Imagine. How appropriate. Choosing a new course for my life 15 years ago was not easy. There was a lot of backsliding at the beginning. I can look back at that part of my history, it will always be part of me. But, here I am now. And I’m so happy that I was brave enough to take the first step down that other fork in the road.