After graduating from college and returning for one final (for now) summer stock stint with Interlakes Summer Theater (if you've never heard of them you should absolutely check them out, Nancy Barry is making Broadway-style magic on a microscopic budget) I have spent the majority of my professional career in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. While my involvement changed and evolved over time I have very much cut my teeth in one specific theatrical community. Then I got my first real life professional gig out of town (and by town I mean a the one-hour theatrical radius around Philly). This summer I packed my bags, loaded up the car and took a 7 hour journey to the beautiful, spacious, quaint*, town of Saranac Lake, NY.
*I want to elaborate quickly on what I mean by quaint. There is one main street, Main Street, which features about 15 establishments all of which are named by function "Pharmacy," "Dentist," "Ammo Store." You cannot get pizza delivered here and everything is cash only. This town is everything that Main Street USA at Disney World wants to be. This is something I can say with confidence having recently returned from a Disney excursion.
Now to be fair I had been here before. When I was 19 I applied for a summer internship on a whim and ended up in the North Country to work on a production of The Fantasticks & Lend Me a Tenor-the difference then of course was that I was an intern. I don't claim to know much about interning in other fields but in theater-particularly in small regional theater-it means you are hired for a job (sometimes a very high skilled job that you're underqualified for) and are also on-hand to do anything and everything else. It was great and totally worth it and shaped the artist and person I am today-but it was a full-time job so I didn't worry about how I spent my time. Don't get me wrong-I have had plenty of scheduled time here too, putting up a massive show spanning 200 years like Arcadia in a few short weeks certainly consumed the early days here but then we opened and I was left with a massive feeling of "now what?"
I explored a bit and tried to find the local equivalent of my favorite haunts, but after a few too many trips to the Karaoke-Diner-Bar (Romano's-it's also a bowling alley) and the harsh reality check that the movie theater only showed 4 movies a week, most of which are for children (yes I saw Minions, yes it was wonderful) I returned to my unentertained state. My colleagues proposed something different, "How about we climb Mount Baker?" I should've known then what they meant-"How about we huff and puff our way up sheet rock, become lunch for every bug imaginable, get absolutely schooled by group after group of walking-stick wielding Boy Scouts, get passed by our Artistic Director on her leisurely morning trek (she also passed us going down while we continued to ascend), AND THEN reach the summit AND THEN climb back down.
Which brings me to the top of the mountain. Have any of you climbed a mountain recently? Do you know what is at the top? VIEWS OF OTHER MOUNTAINS AND MORE TREES AND DIRT AND A SMALL PIECE OF METAL YOU STEP ON AND A SIGN STUCK TO A TREE a la WINNIE THE POOH THAT SAYS "TOP OF MOUNTAIN." I looked around confused-where was the air-conditioned gift shop? The cocktail lounge with granite themed drinks? Surely we had missed the snack shack near the summit??? But no-those things don't exist here. I innocently asked my fellow climbers what we did once we arrived and was told to "enjoy it"-that's when I truly knew-I am an urban dwelling indoor kid.
Which is not to say that I have not enjoyed outdoor activities here-on the contrary I recently had the best food that exists in this town (Left Bank Cafe) in the form of brunch on a pseudo-dock, a s'more filled joyous night of bon fire on a deserted beach, as well as an epic boating trip around Lake Placid (there was a very full cooler and pocket bacon).
Now this may sound like complaining, but it's not, it's quite the opposite. This blog post is an affirmation and a letter of love to Pendragon. Being here has taught me so much. I am fortunate enough to have worked on a role that demands attention in and out of the room, with a leader (Kim Bouchard) who has pushed me to do things on stage that I didn't know I was capable of. I spoke to one of my cast mates recently, a former company member here, about my envy that he had an Artistic Home-one company he worked with so consistently that he knows the ins and outs of practices and personalities-and as I think about it more and write this out I realize I too have an artistic home. I may not always get the work that I want and it usually (always) won't pay enough, and there are times that I am frustrated by my peers/theater siblings but there is a place where I have learned to be the person and performer that I am today and that place, Philadelphia, is full of an incredibly rich, diverse (I could count the number of non-white people in this area on my limbs), community of artists and muggles, joyous indoor and comfortable outdoor activities...AND has Thai food that you can order at midnight. This has been an incredibly eye-opening experience and I hope to do more and more work out of town to see other places and worlds and artists. As we enter our last week of shows I can already tell I will miss it here but I can honestly say, there's no place like home.