365 Things to Look Forward to: Number 5 – Watching a Play

5. Watching a Play.

I am substituting for a Grade 5 teacher today, the 9th of June 2011, and the Vice Principal gave me a really pleasant surprise as she walked me to my classroom. The 5th and 6th graders had put up a production of Hairspray and were doing a dress rehearsal/special performance for the first half of the morning, with 2nd graders as an audience.

I have always loved theatre–thanks to the exposure I got from my mother–but also because it must be in my genes. My maternal grandfather was a thespian, as is one of my paternal aunts. I also have a special place for musicals in my heart and imagine I could have done that, if my mother, in her contrary way, would have let me become a thespian. She actually considered the profession immoral in a very old-fashioned way.

Theatre, to me as a child, was a magical world that took me away from what would otherwise have been the very drab, introverted world of a nerdy bespectacled bookworm. It not only transported me into the world of my books, it came alive for me so that I didn’t need to stage elaborate and full productions of books in my head.

Whenever possible, my mother would obtain tickets to a play so we could watch it–and while not very frequent, it happened enough times that I remember. The most affordable plays were done by a local repertory company with plays staged in Filipino. I know I learned how to speak and understand Filipino better because of those plays. Plays done by the leading English repertory theatre company were a little too costly, so we got to watch these only once in a rare while. So it was a glorious treat when I became related to that company by virtue of marriage. I was able to watch every play I wanted to as often as I wanted to, and so rarely ever missed one. Then, I worked with this company, as well as another theatre company based in the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, so I had the time of my life!

With every play I watched, I drank in every scene, every song, every detail. I couldn’t get enough of just  watching plays as a child, so I started looking for plays to read. By the time I was done reading every single children’s book in the collections we grew up with, I needed more to satisfy my craving and discovered my dad’s Classics Club collection–and encountered my first complete collection of the works of William Shakespeare!

I never just read plays. In my mind, I became a director, designer, and actress. I could see the play running through my mind, complete with sets, lights, costumes and sound effects, with characters speaking as if they were standing right before me. My secret desire was to be a famous thespian–it didn’t matter if I wasn’t the star, as I was painfully self-conscious as a child. I could be the director, the designer, even the playwright. Anything, as long as I was part of the play. And if I couldn’t be part of it, well then, the next best thing was to watch it!

And so, as I watch a grade school production of Hairspray I am drawn back to the world of my dreams. I only wish live theatre as entertainment were much more affordable. But you can bet that when I get that full-time job that provides me with enough income for all the basics and more to spare, and enough downtime so my evenings and weekends don’t have to be spent working, I will be at the theatre, sitting somewhere in the middle or near the back where I can get a good look at the whole stage and be transported into an alternate reality!

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