I moved here in September 2002. I started looking for something to do in the area not long afterward; I knew if I just stayed home all the time and did nothing, I’d not only drive myself insane, I’d drive my poor roommate there with me.
I called one local theater and they called me back, but something there seemed off, so I decided that one was out. Then I went to see Cloud 9 at another local theater, and I fell crazy in love. With the theater – an old firehouse that just felt like a theater, the minute you walked in – with the actors, who did the best version of the show I’d ever seen – and with the direction, which was brilliant. This was the theater I wanted to work at. This was where I was meant to be.
The other theater was five minutes from my house in an area I was comfortable with and had a parking lot; this theater was twenty minutes away (in normal, non-rush-hour traffic) in a somewhat-sketchy area I knew nothing about, had on-street parking (and never enough of it) and meant I had to (GULP!) drive on the HIGHWAY.
I’ve never taken the easy way, have I? Nope.
I signed up in the lobby in the volunteer book and thought if I heard from them at all, it wouldn’t be soon. A couple weeks later, I got a call from someone at the theater. “You said you have experience running a light and sound board on your sheet,” she said. “Yes…?” I said. “YOU DO? Want to run the light and sound boards for our next show in a couple of weeks? We could REALLY use you,” she said.
(Side note: she now runs the box office at the fancy theater here, yo. Love you, J.!)
I walked in petrified. I didn’t know these people. Was this even a good idea? I mean, yes, I needed to get out of the house, and I missed theater. But these were STRANGERS. It had been YEARS since I ran the booth for a show. What if I screwed up? These people were GOOD. They might HATE me.
I think I said about three words to anyone for that entire show. I was this scared little mouse in the booth. But I didn’t screw up the lighting or the sound. And the next thing I knew, I was stage managing the next show of the season. And then the next show. And sometimes running either the light or sound board or both. Doing props. Working backstage. And when, a year later, they asked me to be on the board of directors. I don’t know if I was ever happier.
I moved through positions on the board: trustee at large, secretary, vice president of production, artistic director. I worked on show after show after show. I stage managed, produced, worked box office, worked the light and sound boards, did crew work, acted (a little, and not well, I know my limitations, people), ran auditions, worked hospitality, publicity. You name it, I’ve probably done it.
Eight years, I’ve been on the board there. I’ve met some of my closest local friends while working there. I’ve learned so many things there, had so many opportunities to do things I’d never gotten to do before. I’ve seen such amazing work happen on that stage. I’ve laughed until I’ve cried and cried until I’ve laughed. I took such pride in being the artistic director of one of the oldest community theaters in the area. I did good work. I worked very hard to put up shows that I believed in, that people would both enjoy and that would broaden their horizons, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, as well as make us money.
Being on the board led to my job as a theater reviewer. It led to my current full-time job; I met friend A. there, and he sent me the job posting, and now I work with him. Being on the board led to me knowing most of our local actors; knowing more theater than I ever thought I would; being someone that came up in conversation as part of the local theater scene, a theater scene I could not be more proud of.
Tuesday night was my last official board meeting.
I chose to step down. It was my choice. It’s been an amazing eight years, but it’s been a lot of work. A lot of time. A lot of time I haven’t had for myself. A lot of times where I missed other things, other opportunities. I’m starting to wilt. It’s stopped being fun. And I’ve always said, when something stops being fun, you have to stop doing it, not only for your own sanity, but for the people around you; your mood directly affects them.
I know it’s for the best; it’s opening up a whole new world for me. I have plans for all this time. I have things I’ve been putting off that I’ll finally have time to do. I’ll be able to sleep more. My stress level will be lower. This is for the best.
But just because something’s for the best doesn’t mean that it’s not hard, walking away from something that’s been such a part of your identity for so long. Nine years. Almost the whole time I’ve lived here. The theater’s been my main social interaction for all those years. It’s been me. I’ve been Amy, who works at the theater. It’s hard not to feel a little lost, even if it is the right thing, and I’m doing it for all the right reasons.
I’ll be the artistic director for a little less than a month, still. The new artistic director doesn’t start until next month. This was my last board meeting, however; I accidentally bought a ticket to see Neil Gaiman on the night of our annual meeting next month, so this is it for me. (Sorry, I’m not missing Gaiman. I’d have to hand in my geek card if I did. Plus…well, goodbyes are sad; goodbyes at the annual meeting, in front of all those people? SUPER-sad. Plus also pretty embarrassing.) I could always go back. I could always work at another theater. If I get bored, if I start missing theater, maybe I will, but I’ll be taking a good long break first.
This is the right thing to do.
I handed in the keys that have been hanging on my keychain for eight years tonight. I said my goodbyes, which weren’t as sad as they probably should have been. I know this is the right move for me.
I did, however, sit in the car for a little bit and look at the theater, and say a goodbye to it privately. The woman who, nine years ago, sat in her car, afraid to go in; the woman who, nine years later, sat in her car, afraid to leave.
Nine years there, eight of them on the board. The next time I come back, I’ll be a patron. Or a volunteer. I won’t work there anymore.
Just because something’s the right thing to do doesn’t always mean it’s the easy choice to make.