Hi, I’m Sarah!
I’m a Level 5-er at ColdTowne and a member of the playing-at-8:30-every-Thursday-in-August-BYOB-tell-your-friends-and-family troupe, Bear Derby. I also manage an intern program for an advertising agency and have bad eyesight. (If I don’t say hi, it’s because I can’t see you yet!)
I went through a hundred different ideas for this “In Praise Of,” including the fleeting notion of cranking out a 3,000-word essay on why Mike and Irene should abandon their professional and personal commitments and play every night for the rest of all time.
But tabling that idea and all other praises (there are a lot), I’ve decided that at least for this moment, I’m most in praise of the ColdTowne Theater parking lot—that always buzzing slab of pavement where both accolades and “Sorry I mis-gendered your character in that one scene” apologies are exchanged.
One of the first times I ever hung out after a show in the ColdTowne parking lot, I didn’t know anyone. I was a Level 1 rookie with confidence on stage but not enough “who’s who” knowledge to be too terribly confident off stage. So I probably walked around the parking lot trying to seem like I knew who I was looking for, but in reality I was probably just squinting trying to vaguely recognize someone … or vice versa.
That night, Cortnie Jones came over, linked arms with me, and brought me over to a group of people she was standing with, one of whom was Mr. Drew Wesley. I know there were other people in the clump, but I mainly remember Drew because he was Googling President Obama’s birthday after giving a 10-minute soliloquy on the executive branch (or something like that). (Yea Drewkipedia!)
I felt immediately welcomed because this girl, who I knew had been at the theater a long time and had plenty of friends to talk to, remembered me and took the time to welcome me. And because everyone else in that little group talked to me and made me feel comfortable. I immediately felt like I wasn’t an unwelcome outsider or “just a student.”
I’m a full-fledged adult, but that night, I felt the exact same psychological response as the 13-year-old Japanese foreign exchange student in the junior high cafeteria who finally gets a “hey come eat with us” invitation and quits having to eat lunch in the library. Hooray for Fujimoto! (I just Googled “popular Japanese name.”)
I got home that night and had a handful of Facebook friend requests from people I’d just met. The next time I hung out in the parking lot, I knew a couple more people and the pattern repeated again and again and the amount of people I knew grew. Before too long, I felt a part of the community rather than a student waiting to be part of the community “if or when I’m a good enough performer.” What a cool feeling to be accepted before people really know you. Before you get a chance to prove yourself. Because that’s improv, right? Agreeing before you have a reason to. Trusting that the other person is worthy of your unconditional support before they are able to give any glimmer of proof. So much easier on stage than in life, but so much more important in life than on stage.
So here’s to the ColdTowners who welcomed me and every other new person that comes along—beyond a “hello” as you look around behind us to see who else is in the parking lot. You asked questions and got to know us. You treated us the way you would like to be treated if you were nervous and mingling in a new sea of people. Sure, there’s The Jam and IFL and all the other events created to bring everybody together, but it’s the parking lot-esque scenarios that are the scariest for new people. And I think ColdTowners do an overall wonderful job of making people feel welcome.
(IMPORTANT ALERT: I don’t hang out at other theaters. I don’t know about your parking lot. I’m sure it’s a beautiful parking lot with seagulls and hugs and free ham and cream cheese pinwheels. This is not a knock at your parking lot. This is a praise to mine!)
This is the part where I want to rattle off the names of 20 people who’ve been hospitable, but I’d be leaving out 20 more. There are so many of you that I see consistently welcoming and including new people. Thank you.
So … let’s keep being this way. It’s good for business to be nice to people. It’s also just good for people to be nice to people.
Gotta go get ready for the 8:30 show. See y’all in the parking lot.