Theatre like a second family
I cannot believe it has been 20 years since I first stepped onto the stage at the rec center as a Lost Boy. I have to laugh when I think about how well my character’s name described the girl I was back then. Change that to Lost Girl and it pretty much summed me up. I was an awkward pre-teen who didn’t quite fit in, didn’t play sports, didn’t know my purpose and who was desperately trying to figure it all out. I happened upon the Jamestown Community Theater because friends were trying out and since I had nothing better to do, I joined them.
Little did I know how that decision would change my life. I suddenly had another family. There is no better way to describe the JCT for me than a wonderful family who welcomed me with open arms. They gave me a place to belong, a place to spread my wings, a place to shine. Don’t get me wrong, I know now that I had wonderful parents who wanted all those things for me as well, but growing up in a small town like Jamestown, where everyone knows just about everything you’ve done since kindergarten, it’s a blessing to have a second home like the JCT.
The Jamestown Community Theater brought together people of all ages and let them be people. Not kids, adults, grownups, popular, geeks, but people. We worked together for a common goal – to put on the best show we could, because everyone had faith in us. We knew we could do it and we were going to show the world we could as well. It gave everyone involved the opportunity to bridge the generational gap and get to know one another on a personal level, not as child to adult, but truly person to person.
When I heard that Mrs. Vandal – for she was always Mrs. Vandal in my mind, even after I’d grown up and she’d told me many times that I could call her otherwise – had lost her battle with cancer, it brought back a flood of memories and so many unsaid words of gratitude for what she and Mary Wright and so many others have done over the years to make the JCT the wonderful organization that it is. I can honestly say that without the Jamestown Community Theatre I don’t know who I’d be today. So thank you to Mary Wright for letting Mrs. Vandal stop her on that train all those years ago and getting the wheels turning in the steam train that would later barrel through my life. I’m so glad I jumped on board and never looked back.
Even after 20 years I have never forgotten looking out from behind the curtain and seeing all those people. They had come to see us! And night after night, they kept coming. Talk about a self-esteem boost for that awkward girl who was trying to find her place in life. I’d found it with the JCT and I can only hope that many more Jamestown youths do the same. So here’s to 20 years! May there be many more to come.
Marianne Smith Stern