Mark My Words — Coming back to the theater

When I was younger, I had dreams of becoming an actor.  To be honest, I had dreams of becoming a mailman, a teacher, a weatherman, sports broadcaster, a writer AND an actor.  I guess you could say I had plenty of career choices to choose from.

With all those possibilities, the thought of entertaining a crowd, whether on the big screen in a movie theatre, live on stage in an auditorium or from a TV in the living room of homes all across America, my dream of becoming an actor was something I never quite got over.

I was always involved in plays at church and at school.   In elementary school, I was a seal, a tooth, Frosty the Snowman, a referee and the Ace of Diamonds, as a chorus member in Alice in Wonderland, our fifth-grade production. I was in drama in high school, which was only offered at the time when you were in 11th and 12th grades.

I was a quiet student in school.  I often joke that I came in second during our mock elections for “class quietest” my senior year, losing only to a guy whom I never heard speak at all. I am not even sure we had a second place, but it makes me laugh when I tell it the story, nonetheless.

It was during my senior year that I, for whatever reason, conjured up enough nerve to try out for the Three Rivers Community Players (TRCP) upcoming production of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

Auditions were being held at the Three Rivers Middle School.  I walked in alone. I didn’t know a soul in the auditorium and they didn’t know me.

I don’t remember much about the auditions to be honest, but I remember driving home thinking that the experience wasn’t bad at all and I hoped I would get a part.  There were only two parts in the cast of seven characters for which I could possibly play, so I was relieved when I received the call that I was cast in the role of Stanley Jerome, the older brother.

I was young and not overly experienced in the world of theater, but the people involved with the TRCP took me under their wing and helped me every step of the way.  While I don’t think I gave a Tony Award-winning performance, I felt I did adequate for my first performance on the “main stage” and most of all, I gained the confidence to come out of my shell.  The TRCP was loaded with such talented people who gave of themselves to help others, like me, to become comfortable on the stage and give it my all.

I went on to perform in and work backstage on several productions with the TRCP before “retiring” as I called it, back in 2000. I was able to step back into the role of Stanley Jerome in Simon’s  “Broadway Bound”, which was the third play in the trilogy with “Biloxi Blues” being the second of the three plays.

Once I got married and started a family, and that fact that we lived in Portage at the time, theatre took a back seat.  I never had an interest in testing the waters in the Kalamazoo area.

After moving back to the area five years ago, I thought of becoming involved with the TRCP again but didn’t.  Last year, our middle child asked if she could try out of the Junior Show with the Players. She auditioned, not knowing anybody, never having done it before and snagged a role in the play.  Sound familiar? She loved it. Watching her enjoy the experience gave me the “itch”. As luck would have it, a friend of mine, and member of the TRCP, mentioned to me that she was going to direct the musical the following summer, “Oklahoma!”, for which I performed in back in 1995 with the Players.

Long story short, I became a member of the TRCP again after a 19-year hiatus and was the assistant director/stage manager for “Oklahoma!”, which closed last weekend.  The faces have changed since I was last involved. I was one of the “kids” back then, but as we all do in life, I have moved up a few age brackets. What hasn’t changed, however, is the same level of encouragement, teaching, support, and companionship, as well as the desire of the group and performers to put on a top-notch show to entertain the great people of Three Rivers and surrounding area.  We know we aren’t Broadway, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t good!

If you have had thoughts of acting on stage, working backstage or just getting involved with a theatre group in some way, give it a try. If you would rather be a spectator, come to the shows. The actors and crew work hard for your laughter and applause. That is their only form of payment, after all!

The TRCP has been around for 46 years.  There aren’t many local theatre groups that can say that.   Take advantage of what lies in our own backyard. You won’t be disappointed.

Submitted by Mark McGlothlen

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