Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

By on 26 July, 2017 in Fun, Sarah Thornton with 0 Comments

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What? You, too? I thought I was the only one.’” -C.S. Lewis

As we approach the end of the Playhouse production of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, I am reflective about the lessons I’ve been learning this summer from this company of actors, the many volunteers, and the audiences full of smiling and enthusiastic children and adults alike. This has been “an awfully big adventure” for all of us for many reasons. This was the first year that the children’s troupe at the Playhouse has been given a full main season run, an experiment that meant a lot of growing, exciting new challenges, and inspiring possibility.

I am constantly motivated by the wonderful Playhouse kids. They are always filled with joy, eagerness, dedication, and comradery, a community in the very sense of the word. They are a fantastic team! They have formed such strong friendships, and they support and encourage each other both inside and outside of our walls. This summer, the team grew exponentially, adding many new kids to the ranks as well as some rather young-at-heart pirates (adults) who joined in all of the antics onstage with great spirit and gusto, to be sure. Funnily enough, they also jumped right into all the games of “Harry Potter” and “Capture the Flag” that the kids adventured on during 10-minute breaks and Lost Boys Bootcamp rehearsals in the park!

Whether I got to witness this community bond form from the audience in rehearsals or from the thunderous footfalls on the ceiling above the office hallway, our Playhouse was full of laughter and stories and make-believe every day this summer. The feeling of family was truly contagious! The actors, adults and children all, built sets, helped each other with makeup and costumes, cheered each other on in fight calls, laughed together at inside jokes, teamed up to sweep the stage, shared interests and hobbies, and on and on. The kids built pillow forts out of Playhouse seat cushions and random props. They all took turns leading each other in cast warmups, including some very funny “Thriller” and “Vogue”- inspired ones. Ironically, our record-holder for youngest cast member in a Playhouse show, Jake Jordan (a 6-year-old nicknamed L.J. for “Little Jordan” by his cast mates), led the most drill-sergeant tough warmups! Several actors in the cast of a wide range of ages can look back on this experience as their first time being in a play, and many members of our audience can say this was the first play that they ever saw. What a magical thing!

This cast was also unique in that it included a lot of actual families. The Jordan family’s father and sons made art together this summer in Neverland, as did a few of the Robertson siblings and the Zink siblings. I witnessed real-life older brothers and sisters guiding their younger siblings through the rehearsal process, teaching them to “face out” or check their props. And the best part is, all of the kids did these things to help each other whether they were blood-related or not! The parents and siblings of all of the cast members were ever-present, rooting the cast on, helping spread the word to audiences, driving their kids back and forth from rehearsals and costume fittings, making every effort to support the production however they could. This show is their success, as well!

As I stand in the lobby before each performance, I get to see families coming to support their actors, teachers and classmates coming to support their students, and many young, shining faces who may be inspired to try out for their first play next summer. Just as onstage, several new faces joined us in the audience this summer, and I have been so moved to hear time and again from them how welcoming the Playhouse felt, how much like a family. As this show’s director and the head of our Youth programs, Jason Morgan, says in his curtain speech before each performance, “If this is your first time at the Playhouse, welcome to the family. If you are returning to us, welcome home!” (Side note: his 6-year-old son told me that was his favorite part of the show, and I got a little teary-eyed!)

Our wonderful volunteers threw a fantastic Opening Night reception (complete with costume photo booths and Shirley Temples and a Captain Hook-inspired green, sugary cake that was “much too rich and damp”) and all of the cast and audience and volunteers celebrated together like one giant, happy family. If that isn’t the heart of what a community theater should be, I don’t know what is. It is my pledge to try to keep the Neverland spirit of this summer that I have come to cherish so dearly alive throughout the season and beyond. I sincerely hope you all join us for the next adventure and the next and the next!

Sarah Walker Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse, who walks like a New Yorker and waves like an Alabama girl. She is a product of a Montgomery arts education, with several years of life in NYC thrown in for extra flavor.

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