Recently, I have noticed how many people in my world have been finding new roles to play. My older daughter just became the heroine in the drama of starting grad school while my younger one moved out of the dorm and is acting the grown up single woman in the big city. This is, of course, the natural order of life, but I am really getting kick out of watching people learn to embody new characters. One of my new roles is torturer of metaphor.
A week or so ago, we held auditions for our New and Nearly New 10-minute Play Festival. I am not directing but I sat in the back row trying to get a feel for how this new endeavor was going. Seeing so many young actors trying to earn a part in one of the plays, I thought about how many of them were first-year students taking their initial, tentative, steps into the character of the independent adult. I also watched a couple of young student directors, Maggie and Josh, who are now juniors and leaders in our department. I thought back two years when they were the tentative first years. I had no idea when I cast them in Born Yesterday that they would become principal actors in the life of Theatre Westminster. I sat behind Alisa, an alumna who earned her M.A. in theatre education and took us up on our offer to direct one of the short plays. She left her old part of undergrad and took up new ones, first as a grad student then as a teacher. She has also recently been cast as a new mom. Each of us in the theatre that night was pursuing new objectives and adapting in the moment.
Another dramatic change dominant in my thoughts lately is that I am now playing the part of chair of the Department of Communication Studies, Theatre, and Art. Believe me, after only two months in the role, I often feel like I am struggling to learn the lines. I have not yet fully developed the character. I was very comfortable as director of theatre. I understood how to choose a season, how to schedule the classes and I had cultivated a cadre of guest directors who could provide our students with a variety of valuable theatre insights. I was happy playing the old hand who could mentor Terry, the new guy, in his supporting role of junior theatre faculty member and show him the ins and outs of the Westminster Way. Now I am struggling with changing relationships and new fields. Faculty who have been here much longer than I now look to me for leadership and I am on a steep learning curve as I try to get a handle on Broadcast Communication, Communication Studies, Fine Art and Media Art. Fortunately, I have a wonderful and supportive ensemble in the department faculty.
Terry is our new protagonist, the young buck riding into town to save the day after the old sheriff hangs up his spurs. He has been cast as the new Director of Theatre. Each actor to play Hamlet has brought his or her own fresh eyes and ideas to the role and Terry brings the same to his performance as Director of Theatre. He is into this new-fangled thing called social media; He has created a blog (and he makes me write on it). Our Facebook page is way up on hits. He took the New and Nearly New 10-minute Play Festival way beyond what I had imagined when we first proposed the idea. Every time I turn around he has a new idea to strengthen the program. Fortunately most of them are good and I have been in my new role long enough to know how to say yes to a sensible proposal. The villain in me usually also figures out how to say yes and then let Terry do all the work.
So, the natural order of things is in pretty good shape. New students are joining the department, older ones have become leaders and a fresh faced young protagonist has set us up to raise the curtain on a bright future.
Disclaimer: No metaphors were actually harmed in the writing of this post.