I grew up with loads of television too and we were regularly going to the movies as a family, but we went to the theatre as a family too. When I think of it we had season tickets for a few years at the old Carousel Music Tent in Framingham, MA. From the Mass Pike you can see a hotel there now. We went every Wednesday for a matinee, so that’s eight to ten shows a summer, I guess. We also had tickets to the then new North Shore Music Tent in Beverly, MA but those were evening tickets. If it was a family show we all went and if “too grown up” for us kids Mom and Dad got a sitter and asked another couple to join them, but that’s at least another six to eight shows a season. You add to that the local area high schools, four to six musicals more a year and with the then state teachers’ college in my hometown maybe another play, musical or two a year. When community theatre entered my life I was glad to see more shows when it wasn’t summer, so that’s again two to four shows a year. I’ve seen a lot of shows. Lucky for me I liked them, save for the last summer stock show I saw before I headed to NYC to make my way in the biz. First day at work, who shows up but a guy who was in the show I’d seen who was telling everyone about how great his summer season had been. I thought he’d sucked but I never let on. No, even without my theatre classes in college seeing all those shows had taught me a bit about acting.
Back in college we were a very active theatre community on campus with even non-Majors acting, designing and directing. We had lunch time one act plays, evening plays and the sometime musical directed by students just about every week in the old theatre and three to four major department shows in the new venue. We who were “worthy” got to use the big space too. There was such a demand for space from people with projects to be done that even “alternative spaces” became venues for shows. I used the main room at one of the frat houses for my second show, which believe it or not was a sort of interactive Victorian musicale tea to set up the one act operetta Cox and Box. In fact there was so much theatre going on there was no way anyone could see everything some weekends and we did try to see as much as we all could. There was competition but it was at least on the surface friendly. We knew it was important to see who the new actors were and what they were like and see how one’s brother and sister directors were growing. We had a Majors’ Seminar on the Wednesday before a show opened when the director and design team would talk about concepts and execution of the ideas and not just the faculty’s but our shows as well. We also compared notes on the previous week’s theatre. We were expected to see everything on campus and have full reports on what we’d seen over semester breaks. We took this all very seriously and were very driven to always be better by doing more than our colleagues or even we had done before. The bar was ever to be raised and we wouldn’t know by how much without seeing everything else we could. It never occurred to me that Wunderkind was anything that could be outgrown. Well, “we were all bonny, once.”
One of my classmates invented a project that would have our crowd be in the very first show to open the second semester. We rehearsed in her parents’ basement in Tenafly, NJ and were housed by her and other classmates’ parents for the just under a week of rehearsals. Who knew Tenafly would have so many theatre majors at a time? When we were about done that last Saturday we would go into NYC and hit tkts and see shows. Sometimes we’d do the standing room matinee at the Met and then see a Broadway show or some of us did two Broadway shows instead. All the way back to NJ those nights we would proclaim our notes as we’d deconstruct what we’d seen. I like to think we were almost as smart as we thought we were. We had to have been close because we were seeing so much so often and soaking up such a wealth of shows.