In a little black box in the basement of Aven, I stood on a stage that was no more than a foot and a half off the floor. It squeaked softly with each step that I took–most of the stage did–but just like other quirks found in a place you love, I rarely noticed it.
I had spent a lot of time in that theater and had grown to love it, more for what happened there than for the room itself. Sometimes I spent so much time there that I felt like I lived there, but that was about to change. I was about to move up a floor to where the music department would be putting on Les Miserables.
Up a floor sounds like not much change, but in reality, a world separates the basement from the floor above. Although the majority of the time I spent in Aven was in the basement, in four years of college, I managed to accrue for myself a large number of friends who were music majors.
I even lived with three of them at one point or another. I heard their stories, I listened to them chat amongst themselves, and I began to understand their world, never having been a part of it.
But that is like studying Russia and never visiting.
I now was getting my chance–my chance to experience what so many of my friends had talked about for so long. And honestly, I expected to be completely out of my league.
I had not sung in a choir in four years, and here I was waltzing into a production filled with people who were not only better singers than I, but people who were actually studying music. If that is not intimidating, I do not know what is.
In the moments before our first sing-through, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But the more we sang, the more I remembered just how much I love to sing and how wonderful it is to be a part of something so beautiful.
I began to feel a little more comfortable, a little more at ease during rehearsals, but I still felt like an outsider.
It was a large cast, and although many were new to the department, I felt as though some were unwilling to accept me. Not consciously, of course, but they did not quite feel like friends. It was not home to me. It was not Aven Little Theater.
The theatre department has a smaller stage because our productions tend to be smaller. They do not require the numbers needed to put on a musical. That is good, considering we barely get the people we need to put on our shows.
But of the small number of people who come through the Theatre Department, it is amazing how wonderful they have all been.
Some of my best friends I know through theater. I have even lived with two of them. You would think with the amount of time we all spend together, we would get sick of each other, but we do not.
We are like a family. We love on each other, we hate on each other, but at the end of the day, we are there for each other–through the good and through the bad.
At first, I was worried about moving away from my close-knit family to a different world in which I had no clue how it operated, but being a part of Les Mis was one of the best experiences of college for me.
The story, the music, the whirlwind of emotions it takes you through–that is what it was all about for me. It was all about the stage, the performance. But as I have sat in the director’s seat at Hamlet rehearsals this semester, I have seen a different side of shows. It is also about the people.
The Hamlet cast had an amazing chemistry that was noticeable even from auditions. Rehearsals were lively, full of laughter. The actors were not just cast mates–they were also friend–and, for me, that was what separated the theatre department from the music department. Theatre is what shapes our world; music is their world.
For the nearly five years that I have been a part of theatre here at MC, it had always been about the people, about the little group I consider family. During Les Mis, it was about Victor Hugo’s story of grace and love and redemption.
I used to think that one was right and one was wrong, but venturing up a floor taught me that sometimes it is OK to forget about the people and focus on the story, on the beauty of the word or musical note. Sometimes it teaches you more than people can.
It was not that people were not accepting me, or even that I was an outsider. It was that I was looking at the experience in the wrong way. I was focusing on people when the real focus was the musical itself.
I stood on a stage much higher than the one in Aven Little. The floor did not squeak, and I could not see the faces of those in the audience, but occasionally I could hear the sniffles of those who were moved to tears. That was why I–why all of you–were there.
– Kim Dingess, Contributing Writer