This weekend found me taking a trip down memory lane, a trip that until it occurred, I wasn’t even sure I had wanted 😉
The location that allowed for the situation that lead to me meeting my wife is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, and this weekend was the one chosen to celebrate it correctly… with a flashback episode.
Seriously though, it was a ton of fun to get to see all of the old faces, many of which I didn’t even get to talk to since there were just so many of them, and the show was a touching tribute to the place that hold such a special place in the hearts of so many, myself included.
Eleven years ago, almost to the day, I made my way through the front doors of the building that used to be the location where the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre did the majority of their business (outside of actually performing shows). I knew nobody within the place, had only become aware of the business at all because of the recommendation of a friend, and had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.
I’m sure I left a rather odd first impression on Wayne, the executive director, as my answer to the question of “is this the number you can be reached at?” was, “well, it’s a payphone, but if you leave a message I’m sure someone will let me know about it.” Yeah, I was kind of homeless for a little over a week, had no phone, and honestly not much to my name. Oh how things have changed since then.
I magically got a couple of small roles, after a mediocre audition, and managed to increase the role size by simply stating “I can play a ghost” when in the presence of the situation where an actor stated they wouldn’t be able to continue their involvement in the show.
From that moment, I was hooked. Out of the next 25 shows performed by the group in the following three years, I missed around 10, mostly due to conflicting schedules or casts lists that didn’t require me. I was allowed the opportunity to perform as part of the debut cast of their murder mystery group of performers who sold their services out to the highest bidder (well, any bidder actually… it was for corporate events). I was allowed to serve as the assistant director for a traveling show, placing me in charge of a ragtag bunch of actors ranging in age from 9 (I think) to 40 (I think). Was sent out to a couple of local schools to run their theatre program for a semester in the name of the Children’s Theatre. And I also served as a member of the board of directors for a little over a year. For around three years of my life, I spent what felt like the majority of my time within those hallowed walls.
When I wasn’t busy with all of the above, I would be found helping out with sets or (don’t tell anyone) doing a show with the other main local theatre group.
I loved it and would still probably be spending all of my time there if I hadn’t found the need to start a family (and provide for their needs financially).
Of course, the only reason I would find that need was because of the ECCT itself, which is where I met my better half almost exactly ten years ago.
Not only that, but this group helped push me on my path to actually putting myself out there as a writer, giving me the drive to continue pushing myself creatively.
I owe a great deal to this institution and find myself regularly wishing I had more time and/or money to dedicate to this group that has done so much toward increasing the creative culture of Eau Claire.
I’m excited to see what can happen over the course of the next 25 years, especially since my kids are already talking about when they get to be in their first show.
Have fun out there!