Dropped by the old high school today while I was out getting my teeth cleaned/doing some Christmas shopping. I'd planned to surprise my old drama teacher with a visit, but it turns out she retired last year, and is doing part-time stuff at a school in Hempstead. (Non-Houstonians, don't ask.)
I did spend ten minutes or so with the tech director, though, who's still there. We talked a bit about what we'd both been up to, and he mentioned that most, if not all, of the group from my graduating class (2000) has scattered to the four winds, chasing their dreams.
While I have fond memories of fellow students from all years, that particular nucleus holds special meaning for me. You see, the fall show from my senior year was, I think, the highlight of my time at Taylor. Not just because I was cast in a major role, but because of the tight bonds all of us, cast and crew, formed during that particular production. Part of it is just that it was a damn good show; it was the biggest success I can recall from my time, and in terms of accomplishment, we all felt we knocked it out of the park. (So much so, in fact, that we used the same show, abridged and re-staged, for the spring's UIL One-Act Play competition. We only went two rounds, but they were both of them outstanding, and several of the group, yours truly included, were recognized by the judges for our outstanding work.)
If you've never done theater, or any other major collaborative creative work, then it's hard to explain what happens behind the scenes of a show. The personal dramas, the frenzied rush of deadlines, the Bataan March of Bloody Saturday, and the way it all comes together on opening night, with spit and baling wire and more than a little bit of magic. Suffice it to say, the people you share such an experience with, and especially one like "The Flight of the Earls," you remember for the rest of your life. The core of that group, the Seven and Thirteen, I count among the people I've been closest to in my entire life.
They've even crept into my writing. It's no surprise; as the people I've known best, they're naturally the best inspiration for fully realized characters. When I need a small, unsure woman with a core of steel, there is Jenni. An easygoing everyman, Michael. A boisterous, forceful prima donna (a term of endearment, I assure you), Shanna. A rakish heartbreaker you can trust with your life, Justin. The woman of any man's dreams... well, I think I'm allowed to keep that one private.
And so many more. My college advisor told me that growing up in a small town can give you a lifetime's worth of stories; surely, then, living in the theater can give you a lifetime's worth of characters.
I still think of them often. I suspect, no matter what friendships and loves I forge in the future, I always will. We came to each other holding levers. We taught each other the right place to stand. And by god, if only for a moment, we moved the world.