How many of you played make-believe as a child? I think it’s a safe bet to say that most of you did. The number of towels and pillowcases used as capes, over the years, probably runs well into the millions. And who can forget the beautiful princesses costumed in their mothers’ old party dresses, and boys, thrilled to find a broken tree branch with just the right offshoot to make it the perfect rifle? And whether you were a superhero, a soldier or a princess, your imagination would transport you to another time or place. In my neighbourhood, backyards became battlefields, where the guttural sounds of exploding grenades and gunfire resonated from the throats of every pint sized soldier boy. Old discarded scrap wood was perfect for constructing forts; ground level, as well as in trees. Our minimalist tree fort consisted only of a platform and railing, but what made it “cool” was the rope swing. What else did we need, besides imagination? We had the world…and beyond. How fun was that.
Unfortunately, most children’s affinity for make-believe diminishes, little by little, with each passing year, until, eventually it gets shoved aside and only rarely permitted out to sneak a peek into our rational, responsible, mature lives. However, if you are among the fortunate few, it will refuse to be stifled completely, and evolves into a more organized interpretation of that superhero or princess. It’s called amateur theatre.
Amateur theatre is much like playing – thus the use of the word players in reference to actors – not only do you get to make-believe you are someone else, but you get to build that fort…now called a set, and dress up…now called costumes. And you do it all just for the love of it.
As a teen, I had always loved theatre and the way it drew me into the story unfolding upon the stage, and had always wished I’d had the courage to audition for the school musicals. But my inner child was too shy to come out to play. As much as I had wanted to become a part of that world, feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection held me back. I wasn’t ready to let go of my inhibitions and put myself out there for the world to see and criticize…nor did I think I ever would. Performing is not for the faint of heart.
Then, one day, not long ago and not far away, something magical happened. I joined an amateur theatre group. It was life changing. I didn’t know it at the time - sometimes you don’t recognize things for what they are until much later – but it was. My introduction to amateur theatre began with a giant leap outside of my comfort zone, jolting that playful little girl inside and reawakening my creative spirit.
Ironically, my teenaged fears of being made to feel inadequate or to be rejected were far from realized. Instead, I felt an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and encouragement from these “poor players”, and I still look forward to “playing” during every rehearsal. I don’t know if everyone feels as much of a kinship toward their fellow actors, or if I just lucked out, but not only have I made some great friends to play with, on and off the stage, but a few have even become some of my favorite people.
If you’ve never experienced the world of amateur theatre, I encourage you to step out of the box and release your inner child. In other words, I’m asking, “Do you want to come out to play?”