What a strange couple of weeks this has been for me. It’s true I suppose that things happen for a reason, but I didn’t expect all of it to happen at once.
A couple of weeks ago I saw an article in the local paper regarding the Veterans History Project, a project being done by the Library of Congress to catalog the oral history of veterans who served in past wars. As it so happens, Oral History is a division within Anthropology, and it’s one that I have a little experience with since I come from a performing arts background. After reading that article, I immediately fired an email off to the project coordinator who works for the Historical Society of the county I live in. She responded the very next day with excitement over getting an Anthropologist on staff to help with the project. Later in the week, I spoke with her by phone and was happy to sign on to the project, both for purely selfish reasons (My resume will look better with a list of collections I have contributed to the Library of Congress myself) and because I think this is a truly valuable pursuit. I met with her and a colleague yesterday to discuss the project and came home with a pile of information in folders, and even an audio tape of an interview conducted last year for me to transcribe and abstract for the LoC.
Something else has also happened that was unforeseen. A few days ago, after a random facebook post regarding the Rocky Horror Picture Show I was watching on Netflix, a local community theater approached me and asked me to become President of the Corporation. I was stunned to say the least. I had been planning to start my own Theater group next year when I graduated from college, and the person who contacted me said that it would make more sense for me to just join them and help them climb out of the hole that they have found themselves in. Plus, they already have all the not for profit paperwork completed and are already incorporated, which would save me a lot of time and money. I asked for a few days to mull over the idea of taking the helm on this group a full year earlier than I had planned and to sort out any inadequacy issues I had over being in such a public position of leadership.
I do not make decisions lightly. Having been a member of community theater in this county for nearly 20 years, it has always been my dream to one day run a successful theater group that produces great, artistic shows that aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of community theater. I decided to do my homework, take the temperature of the current Board of Directors (I spoke to three people total out of five) and even consulted the previous President of the group. And after all that, I still see no reason why I shouldn’t do this, albeit a year earlier than I had planned.
Do not be mistaken: this is not a fun jaunt into theater. This will be serious long-term work. There are many things that need to be examined and changed for this group to be functional and successful. Certain theater groups in this county tend to forget that this is a business in addition to being about the Arts. Previous groups have also had Board of Director issues, meaning that the Board members themselves are lazy and inclined to do nothing without being prodded by upper management. Money is always an issue in the arts. Funding from Grants is at an all time low. Without a good fundraising plan, this may be doomed before it ever really gets rolling. (And the money kept rolling out…)
They say that good things come in threes. During my visit to the historical society yesterday, I briefly mentioned my work with community theater, and that I had been approached about taking the helm on a group. As it so happens, the Historical Society is currently planning a production to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Elvis movie “Follow that Dream” which was filmed both here at our local courthouse and at other sights throughout our county. They are planning a live show in April that will celebrate this movie and its impact on our local history. The Historical Society asked if I (and my group) would be interested in helping with this project and could they please give my number to the woman who was in charge to have her contact me? I said yes. What I didn’t expect was that this lovely lady would call me within minutes of stepping out of the old courthouse while I was heading home.
To say that she was excited is an understatement. She is currently writing the show with a group of people, and she invited me to come today to a writers meeting she’s having at her home this afternoon. We spoke on the phone as if we were already old friends. She told me about the project and how it came about, and when she found out that I was also a writer in addition to the myriad other things I’m involved with, well, that sealed the deal. She begged me to come be a part of this project, and how can I say no? I went from being a no-one to a someone over night it seems. I have never had so many people actively seek me out like this before. I’ve lived in this county for probably 29 years and have only ever been involved with the theater groups here. Nothing ever seemed to come of it.
In the space of a week, I suddenly find myself heading a theater group, working as an ethnographer for the Veterans History Project and taking part in a county celebration of history and Elvis. To say that I felt overwhelmed after yesterday is probably not surprising, but under the light of a new day, I see a lot of good that can be done with these things. This could finally be my chance to leave my mark here, and just maybe, bring some of the Golden Age of Theater back to our county.
I have my work cut out for me, but then, I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge.