The sense of having “community”—what does that mean? As a child, it was neighborhood kids and then Boy Scouts. In high school I was a loner, but found tribe in theatre. If a school show wasn’t in rehearsal, I’d go down to the drama teacher Miss Miller’s room and see who was hanging out. Community theatre was the big-time for me: smoke-clogged rooms at rehearsal, then out for coffee afterward—me the youngest at the table, which was fine with me. I was still a loner among the general population: my people were those with whom I shared a common purpose.
When I started teaching, we rarely socialized with faculty; our people were those we interacted with, the students. The tribe expanded as we started our first theatre ensemble. In the years of heavy touring, it shrank back to the immediate family and the intense world of one-night-stands—with a few anchor-points like the Baltimore Theatre Project, where you sat late nights around the big kitchen table bonding with whomever was there.
The Lancaster years were rich with a cluster of artists and fans, and likewise Philadelphia. Our westward move wrenched us away from a theatre community and many friends, but we were part of various subcultures that took up the slack. Our venture into public radio gave us a wide spectrum of people—few long-term friends but many encounters that made up for those long, lonely nights of editing the shows.
Now? Vast numbers of friends and acquaintances scattered over the land—whom we rarely see. If there’s a “theatre community” in our area, we’re not part of it, though we have many, many friends whom we rarely see. We attend a periodic poetry salon and a Shakespeare reading group, both much valued, but I feel something lacking.
I suppose it gets back to that element of sharing a common purpose. It may be temporary, it may be illusory, it may be very individualistic—but you know it when it’s there, and it’s not. We have multiple handicaps: we’re old, we’re obsessive with our work, we’re intensely married, and we’ve never quite fit in as one of the gang. I’m far from advertising myself as discontented—we have an incredibly blessed life—but I wish we had tribe beyond those on Facebook. Our work would be better for it.