Community theatre reflects small town well

  • Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday night I headed out for a Girls Night Out with a few close friends. We went to dinner and then to our community theater’s production of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” to watch our friend Shannon perform. Greenwood Little Theater was packed and we settled into our seats to watch the show.

The cast was a motley crew in the best possible way: Young and old, black and white, svelte and robust — they looked like our community. Shannon’s first solo was a love song and her voice was strong and sweet. I didn’t realize she could sing so well.

She was fairly reserved when I first met her, and I don’t guess there’s ever a time to work into conversation, “You know, I’m a pretty amazing singer, right?” Unfortunately, we don’t live in an episode of “Glee,” so there have been no musical numbers or flashmobs where she has burst into song as we walked at the park or prayed together in Bible Study, so I had no idea what to expect.

My chiropractor pranced onto the stage dancing and belted out a song. My jaw dropped. She was phenomenal, and again I was taken completely by surprise. I knew several of the cast members: A music teacher, a dance instructor, a college professor.

I looked at the cast members I didn’t know, and wondered what they did for a living. Were they bankers, grocery store clerks, students? Had they performed before or was this their first time? Anytime I am in an environment like this my mind and heart race — what bravery. I marvel when I watch artistic performances at the guts it takes to step onto a stage, into the limelight and to perform. Shannon took the stage with a red feather boa and became someone other than herself.

I smiled through tears at the sheer vulnerablity it must have taken to be there in that moment, singing a bawdy song alone on the stage. I looked around the theater during intermission and was pleased to see that the audience, much like the cast, represented my community well — in Mississippi, sometimes, that is no easy thing.

I saw the cast to know not just as chiropractors, teachers or friends, but as artists. Charles Horton Cooley said, “An artist cannot fail; it is a success just to be one.” I think this is so, because to be an artist, to create something your audience can relate to, you must open yourself up and share something that is buried deep within you: A bawdy song and dance with a boa, a photograph you snapped when the light was just right on a cotton field that reminds you of your childhood, an editorial written to your local newspaper sharing an issue you are passionate about, a scrapbook you create full of beautiful memories to share with family and friends. It’s all art and it makes life so much sweeter.

Dance, sing, write, create. Share your art. I am watching. Your community is watching, and we are inspired by what’s inside you.

(Robin O’Bryant is an author, humorist and speaker. Her latest book is “Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves.” Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and visit her blog at www.robinschicks.com.)

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