This week, four years ago I walked through the doors of the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center as a performer and program member. This summer, my role has shifted – I’m a marketing intern and an assistant stage manager for the season opener, “The Circle of Life”. Much to my surprise, there are some fascinating comparisons that can be made between my first week as a program member and first week on staff.
Regardless of my age and role, the first week has always been one full of new friendships. Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t know anyone in my show, Magic Up Our Sleeve. Auditions were lonely and more than a bit awkward. Over the first week, a few bonds were slowly made and some lasting friendships arose and as I got older, my web of friendships grew. The first week became less and less awkward. Similarly, as a new staff member, I knew nary a soul… kind of – I knew the staff as these figureheads, or creators of “the magic”. I didn’t know any of them on a personal level.
Just as Summer Stage has an opening meeting, the staff has one too. I walked into staff orientation, a room full of these inspiring people I had looked up to for years, and sat down near a fellow ASM that I knew.
For a while I just sat, a nervous staff member in a sea of half-familiar faces. But just as it was my first year, the welcoming atmosphere of Summer Stage filled the room and before I knew it I had connected with my newfound peers.
The first event of the week at Summer Stage is auditions. The nervous energy that fills the chorus room at auditions is ever present, even on staff. It’s just as exciting and nerve-racking for us as it is for the students. As a freshman, it seemed daunting to get up in front of all these new, unfamiliar faces and sing, dance and act.
Nowadays, it still is unsettling. Leading a group of 85 kids fills me with the same nervous energy I had four years ago. You stand up, introduce yourself, and before you know it the tense moment has passed, but you notice how weak your legs actually feel. All the same, nothing feels better than knowing that you tried, both as an ASM as well as a performer.
I sat down to write this post as a contrast between my first week as a program member and first week as a staff member, but what I’ve come to realize is that the differences are minor and irrelevant. What’s special about Summer Stage is that every year, the first week is so familiar.
In all first weeks there are new people to meet and new expectations to be met. I may enter the PAC a few minutes earlier and I may sit on the other side of the table, but the feeling of family and community is still present and alive.