Summertime for many means no school, going down the shore, no school, going to baseball games, no school, getting tans, no school, wearing flip-flops, no school, going to concerts, no school, barbequing, no school, eating water ice and yup, you guessed it, no school!
I am looking forward to all of these things, as much as the next person. But summer to me, at least for the last 10 years, has also meant summer plays. This program is designed for kids ages 12 to 18 to have something to do so that they don’t have to stay in all summer bored out of their minds. Since the summer of 1996, I have been involved in my grade school’s summer theater program. All summer long, two nights a week if not more; I practice in the sweltering-hot parish hall, dancing, singing and acting. In August, I help put our finished project on stage. This process is repeated every summer. I have appeared as a dancer, back-line chorus, the lead role and the director.
This upcoming summer, I will be completing my 10th year involved in the organization and my fourth year directing. I know you must be thinking I am crazy. If you don’t think so, let me explain.
As director, it is your job to make sure every single solitary aspect of the show runs smoothly. And if you think this job starts in June, you all are sadly mistaken, my friend. It starts around January. You have to shop around for different musicals. Once you pick one you have to make sure it is in your price range. This is a non-profit organization and money is always tight. Once that is taken care of, you have to pay for the right to put on the show. You have to book a venue to have the show because my parish does not have a stage. You have to find people to help you out. You have to find a band to play the music throughout the summer and during the show. You have to find cast members. This all has to be finished before you start practicing, which is in May.
Then the real work begins. Practices can be very frustrating. I am only 21 years-old. I started directing when I was 18 years-old. The problem is a lot of these cast members are my age or not far-off. It is hard to demand authority because it is easy for them to walk all over me. As a result, every single show for the past 10 years has been behind schedule. It becomes way too overwhelming juggling this, my regular job and a social life all at once.
Last summer started out to be the worst yet. I thought I had everything under control when I became sick. For two weeks I had no idea what was wrong with me. It turned-out I had mono. It wiped me out for a good month. The doctors all said it was brought-on by stress and I was just worn out. It was the truth; I wasn’t sleeping because I was worried sick about the show. As soon as I started to feel better I forced myself back without fully recovering, and as of today, I have yet to have a real break. As soon as the play is over, I am right back to school.
Another nerve-wracking thing that happened last year was that as of three days before the show opened, we didn’t have a piano player. We had taught the kids all summer from a CD. My high school chorus teacher came through and saved the day, but it was a close call.
I am proud of every end product. I know it may be tons of work and added stress, but it is always so worth it in the end. This summer will be my last year directing. I have decided that I need to move on and do something else with my summertime. It is a bittersweet feeling. Throughout my entire adolescence, it served as my definition of summer.