Mini-essay: A Meditation on the Green College Players

I wrote this for the alumni newsletter associated with the graduate residence where I lived for two years while completing my MA at UBC in 1999-2001. Green College was and continues to be an inspiring, amazing community; for me, it was – entirely unexpectedly – one of the places where my journey towards a career in theatre started. This is part of that story.

*****

“At GC to see the Green College Players do The Tempest. Awash with nostalgia. Too many Greenies to tag, but you are ALL in my mind.”

That was my Facebook/Twitter status on March 7th, as I sat in the Coach House waiting for the show to start. Several friends from my time at Green College – now scattered across the world – immediately chimed in with variations on “oh wow, that’s great, I wish I was there too”. If they had been, I know they would have been as moved and thrilled as I was, both by the production itself and by the memories it brought back.

For us, it started with Twelfth Night in March of 2000, and continued with The Importance of Being Earnest, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and many other productions over the next several years. One might well ask: why would a bunch of grad students working in every field but theatre spend months devoting all their spare minutes (and probably many that shouldn’t have been spared, to the chagrin of our thesis advisors) to putting on a play? I can only say that, for me, those plays ended up embodying so much of what was amazing about living at Green College. Community. Friendship, especially the particular joy of working with talented friends on an exhilarating, absorbing project. Personal growth; the realization of strength and expanded potential. Thinking outside the box, dreaming big, bouncing gleefully between disciplines and feeling new ideas shake loose and take wing. The thrill of collective accomplishment. Being brave, and having other people support and respect that bravery.

Of course, there was also a ton of tedious hard work. Floods of e-mail. Forgotten lines and missed rehearsals and endless planning meetings. Crossed wires, hurt feelings, tears. Ridiculous amounts of moving furniture around (oh, those massive tables in the Great Hall! I’m pretty sure my back muscles still remember just how heavy they are). Lots of blown fuses – both real and metaphorical.

But in the end, there was always a show. It was a beautiful, hard-won miracle, every time. I’m pursuing a career in professional theatre now, but I hope I never lose the awareness of how magical it really is, that a motley crew of folks like us (like the cast and crew of The Tempest; like all the other Green College Players over the years; like every theatre company I’ll ever work with) could undertake this crazy thing together… and pull it off.

I enjoyed The Tempest very much on its own terms, for its committed performances and endlessly creative staging. But I also sat most of the way through with a silly grin on my face and incipient tears in my eyes because the waves of memory were so strong, and because I was so glad to witness another group of Greenies going for broke in this medium that I love; finding their light – as the theatre saying goes – and shining brightly, in so many unexpected ways.

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