Friday, December 11, 2009

A "Really Terrible" Concert

Okay, theater people. It's time for us to admit something. Sometimes when we have to say the familiar phrase, "I can't; I have rehearsals," we feel a bit of smug satisfaction. In those few, brief words, we tell the world that we are talented and creative - so much so that we have been asked by People In The Know to spend much of our free time working on some grand, artistic endeavor.

But sometimes ... sometimes ...

Sometimes there's sadness and regret and frustration in those words.

So here's the deal. Last month I was FINALLY offered a part in a play. Not a speaking part, unfortunately. It was one of those 3rd Spear Carrier To The Right kind of parts. Well, except for the fact that I would have been dancing and not carrying any sharp implements. But none of that matters. The point is it was SOMETHING. Besides, everyone knows that the people with bit parts tend to have the most fun on a show. There's minimal stress since there are no lines to memorize. As a bonus, you get to spend tons of time backstage socializing with the other ensemble players. Just imagine all the possibilities to make friends and connections! I was so thrilled. BEYOND thrilled. The door had been opened wide for me. All I had to do was walk through it.

Just one problem: the orchestra.

The play was running nearly every night for the first 3 weeks of December. The orchestra's Christmas concert conflicted with one of those performances. Just one. Just one night. But sadly, that was enough. Understand that the concert was scheduled for a Wednesday night. It's EXTREMELY rare for community theater groups to have performances on Wednesdays. However, this is the Xmas season and all bets are off. When the Powers That Be at the theater company heard about my conflict, I was given the maybe-next-time polite rejection. Uuuuuuuuuugh.

The non-performers out there will say, "Why not just drop out of the orchestra?"
But the performers will understand. We were one month away from the concert. Just 5 rehearsals left. I had made a commitment. I had to stick by it or deal with the inevitable karmic revenge. "[Director Guy] will understand. In fact, he will appreciate that you honored your previous commitment and will take it as a sign that you are a true professional who can be trusted." I said this to myself. Others said it to me, too. But that didn't change the fact that this was utterly heartbreaking for me.

Enter ... bitterness.

Just the thought of the orchestra made me grumpy. I tried to persevere. I told myself that one of the reasons why I must stay with the orchestra was because if I left I'd have to be replaced. I couldn't ask someone else to learn these pieces in so little time - especially not the Oklahoma Suite. Then our conductor decided that the First Flutes were too overwhelming during the Oklahoma Suite and switched me to the Second Flute part. Note that the Oklahoma Suite was our most difficult piece and runs 11 minutes long. I had logged many many hours on that piece, training my fingers to learn the difficult passages and my diaphragm to force out the extraordinarily high notes. The Second Flute part was not much easier - still tons of difficult passages, only the notes were a smidge higher or lower to create harmony. I found it painfully ironic that, in my attempt to save someone else from learning such a difficult piece in one short month, I found myself in that very position. Months of effort down the drain.

I did not just mumble my displeasure under my breath. I roared. Tim had to hear the worst of it, of course, but others got a fair share, too. A part of me thought about skipping the concert altogether just out of spite. But what would be the point of that? I'd already lost the part in the play. If I had to miss the play because of this concert then, by god, I was going to put in a good showing.

That catches us up to Wednesday night. The concert.

About 500 people paid to see us. They laughed at our silly jokes. They used the complimentary crayons to color the pictures in the program. They gave us a standing ovation. And you want to know something? I enjoyed it! And not just because of the audience's positive reaction, but because of the camaraderie I felt with my fellow musicians. I imagine no one is more surprised than I am by this. I wish I could describe what changed, but it's inexplicable. It's not that we were perfect (Tim says the brass section was especially cringe-worthy at times). But for some reason, it was fun again. I think it helps that the entire ensemble had to hang out backstage together before the concert and during intermission. For a change we were forced get out of our chairs and mingle - to socialize with one another. Compliments were given. Conversations started. I was reminded that these people were not the enemy. Instead, they were very nice. They were funny and kind and were happy to have a chance to play their instruments with a group. I felt a part of an artistic ensemble again, a part of a team. I think that's the feeling I've been looking for all along.

Our conductor, Sandy, sent out an e-mail this week. With the spring semester comes a new season for the Really Terrible Orchestra of the Triangle. There will be all new music to learn. He made no bones about it: if you want to drop out, now is the time to do it.

I've decided to stay.


lizgwiz said...

You're a better person than me. I don't like "long-term commitment to weekly rehearsals" kinds of gigs. I'm always getting asked why I don't sing in the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, or the Tulsa Opera Chorus, or one of the good church choirs, etc. And the answer, aside from the fact that I've done more choral singing in my life than anyone really needs to do, is that I don't want to make a commitment to something that would keep me from doing a play, if one comes up I want to do. And dropping out suddenly after agreeing to the commitment would not be cool, you're right.

Mary said...

Liz, I've looked at the theater schedules here and I know that the risk is extraordinarily minimal. The theater companies I'm interested in only do big productions like this at Xmas. Everything else for the rest of the season has already been cast and there will be no auditions until April or May. I figure I may as well do something creative in the meanwhile, so I'm sticking with the orchestra for now.