Winston Whiteside says, in our production of It’s A (somewhat) Wonderful Life, “I haven’t spent Christmas with anyone other than you egomaniacal actors (and I use the term loosely) in over thirteen years!” Imagine that…spending every single holiday, for more than a decade, with ACTORS. Gives you the shivers, doesn’t it?
Well, it shouldn’t. My experience of the holidays is mirrored by Winston’s with one big difference; I’ve spent my holidays in the company of theatre folk for nearly 20 years, ever since I first started my life as a theatre director and I have to tell you something…I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yes, spending the holidays in a production is hard. Very hard. We rarely have the chance to attend holiday parties. We are extremely tired and grumpy for most of November and December. We always do our Christmas shopping at the last minute. We usually find holiday music grating and annoying (especially those of us who work in musical theatre!) and we eat terrible food, don’t do our laundry, just want to sleep all the time and don’t get to spend as much time with our partners, children, grandparents or siblings as the rest of the universe….but…
We get to watch as our work on stage brings the joy of the season to countless audience members. We get to be around some of the funniest, hardest working and most talented people on the planet for hours on end. We have the great pleasure of telling our patrons stories during the holidays, and of lightening the holiday load for families and friends. It is an incredible gift we get each year, and it is one that I wouldn’t exchange for anything.
This show, in particular, is extra special this holiday season.
First off, this is Megan Carver’s last show as a member of the Bag&Baggage Resident Acting Company. Megan has been working with us for years, and made her B&B debut in our 2010 production of A Christmas Carol where she enchanted audiences and kept us all in stitches with her hilarious, spot on, over the top, brilliant comedic timing and glorious, angelic voice.
Megan will be leaving Oregon soon to try and make a go of being a professional actor in the bigger, badder world of theatre and film and she leaves us having found a place in the hearts of our audiences and having made the company a stronger, better and more creative place than when she found it. It has been an honor for me, personally, to work with Megan, to get to know her and to count her among my collection of “divas.”
I love you Megan, thank you for…well, for being you.
Second, this is also Ian Armstrong’s last show with us as a member of the B&B Resident Acting Company. Ian has been a mainstay of the company for years and has the singular honor of having performed in more productions than any other actor in our history.
It’s A (somewhat) Wonderful Life marks Ian’s 15th production with the company and his departure makes me both incredibly sad and happy, all at the same time. Ian is also pursuing his lifelong dream of being a professional performing artist. Ian is a remarkable man, an incredibly gifted actor, a towering comedic genius, and a good, good friend. His departure will leave a hole in the company that will be difficult to fill, and his absence will be felt daily by those who call him friend, including me.
I love you, man…every single time, Ian Armstrong! Every. Single. Time.
But, even with the departures of two of our most stalwart company members and the associated sadness, there is (as always) hope…
Not only will I continue to have the honor of working with actors like Adam Syron and Gary Strong (starring in our final show of this season, Private Lives) but the Venetian stage will continue to play host to some of the most remarkable NEW talent…The delightful Jessica Geffen (who made her debut with us as Lana in this show) will most assuredly be back and our upcoming production of Lear will see the return of three of the most talented women we discovered in Julius Caesar: Stephanie Leppert (who played Portia) as Cordelia, Rebecca Ribenour (who played Brutus) as Goneril and Jessi Walters (who played Lucilius and the Soothsayer) as Regan. Benjamin Farmer, B&B Resident Acting Company Member, will be playing Perilus too!
This is all to say:
As the new year approaches and the old year comes to a close, I am reminded of the cycles of the seasons, the ever changing landscapes of our lives, and of the sadness and excitement that comes, hand in hand, with those changes.
Working in theatre is hard. The hours are too long and the pay too little. The real gift I get from working for Bag&Baggage is found in the people; the actors I spend every holiday with, the audiences who share the journey, the volunteers, donors, patrons, staff and board members who all come together for one singular purpose. To help me tell stories.
That is the greatest gift I have ever been given and the only one I have ever asked for….thanks to ALL of you who made that possible.
All the best to you and yours for the new year. May it bring you joy.