As I write this blog post - long red nails obnoxiously tapping the keyboard, mic tape adhesive subtly stuck to my cheek, and remnants of bright lipstick still on my lips – I find myself almost joyful at the thought of how much I love theatre. We just concluded tech week for Honky Tonk Angels at Mill Town Players – long nights, pages of notes, reworking scenes – and even through the exhaustion, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is what we have worked towards for six weeks. To open to a full house of eager audience members, ready to escape their lives for two and a half hours and take that feeling home with them. This is theatre.
To me, theatre is essential. It is a part of who I am. Each character leaves a little bit of herself in me, so that I can grow and learn from her. That is what we hope for our audiences as well. That they can see a show like Honky Tonk Angels and be inspired to follow their dreams, or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and be compelled to live a life free of mendacity, or HAIR and revisit the idea of what it means to question authority. As an actor and co-owner of a community theatre, I feel personally responsible for what an audience gleans from a performance. And as an audience member, I feel personally responsible to soak in as much truth as possible while watching a show. Our hope as theatre artists has to be to provide escape, inspire, and compel change for our audiences, our fellow actors, and ourselves.
As an actor or audience member, I find myself lost within a show – lost in the way that I am also somehow found. I am able to escape to a place far beyond my circumstances outside of the theatre. No matter what kind of lemons life is throwing my way, I can step into the lights, put on a wig, or hear the orchestra play the overture, and nearly forget every trouble that happened earlier in the day. That is powerful! To somehow be lost and found. What a gift theatre gives us!
Actors, have you ever been in a role and found yourself so inspired that you wanted to emulate your character in real life? Of course you have! And what a joy to be able to implement those character traits so that you in turn may grow from your character, just like your character grew from you. As an audience member to many shows in the Upstate, I love that little tingle of inspiration that fills my chest when I relate to a character’s actions or motivations. How that little feeling will stick with me for days, and sometimes longer, until it can no longer be ignored and I must act on whatever truth that performance deposited into my soul. When you open your heart as an audience member to experience those truths with the cast, you open your eyes to a world of immeasurable vastness and possibility.
When we find ourselves so inspired by a sense of escape, we often seek ways to use that emotion to compel us into change. Whether you’re performing or viewing an emotionally heavy (and timely) play like Clybourne Park, or a boot-stomping, light-hearted musical like Honky Tonk Angels, theatre exposes the human condition and need for growth. When inspiration strikes in theatre, the seed of change has been planted, and when cultivated one can be so compelled to change their circumstances, find inner peace, or pursue a dream. It is an immense honor to be a part of something so powerful!
Theatre has a unique way of meeting us where we are, settling in, and making us feel less alone. And isn’t that what we all desire? To be a part of something greater, something that makes us more than we are, yet connects us with the world. Theatre is essential. So whether you’re an audience member watching the amazing performances of actors across the Upstate, or an actor bringing a character to life so you may impact your audience, I encourage you to allow this amazing art form to enter your life so that it may do what it does best: provide escape, inspire, and compel change.
Oh, and get out and see some theatre!
Meghan Cole is an Upstate actor and co-owner of The Market Theatre Company. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, writing, and spending time with her favorite toddler.