67 seasons, 67 shows, 6 (or 7) Lessons Learned

Today’s blog post is written by Melissa Levine, a Little Lake Apprentice who leaves for Baldwin Wallace College this weekend. It is the first installment in our new “My Little Lake” series.

Little Lake’s 67th season marks my 6th year as a participant in the theater’s Apprentice program. In that time I have performed in 3 shows and seen 7 Looking Glass/Fall Family Matinee productions & 57 main stage productions, including 5 that I have worked on as run crew.

Last Gas (which I stage managed) was my 67th and final Little Lake production as an Apprentice. (For the sake of transparency, I’ll admit that I have technically seen 58 main stage productions, but that number includes two productions of A Tuna Christmas, so the number of unique productions stands at 57). Through my experiences with those 67 shows I have learned more about myself, about life, and about the theatre than I could possibly enumerate. But I’m going to give it a shot.

  1. You will make mistakes.

As the Little Lake Apprentice Handbook says, “You will make mistakes. Don’t make any, but if you do…” This is something I keep in mind in life, as well as in theater. No matter how hard you try not to make mistakes (and you certainly should try), you will make them. Being an Apprentice has taught me how to deal with my mistakes better than any other activity I have participated in. I have learned how to own up to it, try to fix it, and move on. In theater and in life, whether it’s a missed light cue or something much bigger, you cannot dwell on your mistakes or you’ll miss what’s up ahead.

  1. There is something to be learned from every show (even the ones you don’t like).

Here’s something wild: I haven’t loved all 67 shows I’ve seen here. While there are some shows I remember for years afterward (I’m looking at you, Farnsworth Invention), not all of them have resonated with me (Sorry, Black Tie). Regardless, I firmly believe there is something to be learned from every show I have watched or worked on. Whether it was an inspiring performance by an actor, an ingenious set design, or a particularly well-written scene, I have never regretted seeing a show, even if I didn’t really enjoy the production as a whole. I am honestly troubled by how many people don’t take the time to enjoy live theater. All shows are worth seeing, in part because…

  1. Theater is so much more than what you see on stage.

There’s this idea in the theater world that the audience should ideally not notice the technical aspects of a show, and if they do, it’s because something went wrong. This probably explains why I did not fully understand the amount of work that goes into a production until I became an Apprentice. There is a set to be constructed, props to be found and cleaned, costumes to be found (or created), lighting and sound to be chosen, and countless other technical and design decisions that often take place before the acting rehearsals even begin. Working as an Apprentice has given me a much fuller understanding of this process, allowing me to be a more aware and appreciative performer and audience member.

  1. Team work makes the dream work.

The magic of community theater is that everyone eventually ends up helping out with everything. Our technical director just finished acting in one of our Looking Glass Theatre productions. Both the current and previous props masters started out as actresses here. And if you hang around after a show in the summer, you’ll most likely see the actors helping take down the set in preparation for the Looking Glass show the next morning. When you’re on such a tight schedule with such limited resources, everyone has to be willing to contribute something extra and occasionally do things that are not “their job”, but the cooperative nature of Little Lake’s productions is part of what makes them so special.

  1. Expect the unexpected.

This is another one I learned at Little Lake that applies to pretty much everything else. After the initial run of 2011’s Tuna Does Vegas was cancelled due to an actor’s illness, 14-year-old-me thought I had seen it all. I have been proven wrong every year since. Sometimes, surprises bring added difficulties: on the first day of tech rehearsals for Last Gas, the power went out at the theater (Roxy’s note: A bird dropped a snake on a power line and blew out our transformer. Can’t make that up); as you can imagine, it is difficult to hold a tech rehearsal with no tech. However, sometimes the surprises are good ones: after being especially delighted with a performance, a patron once gave all of the cash in his wallet to our managing director as a spontaneous donation to the theater. Little Lake has taught me to stay on my toes and to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

  1. Never ignore what you have a passion for.

One of my favorite things about Little Lake is the mix of people it brings together. While many actors who have graced our stage pursued careers in the theater at some point in their lives, and others graduated college with degrees in theatre, many of the actors here have careers completely unrelated to all things theatrical. While they spend their days as teachers, businessmen and women, and stay-at-home parents, they all make time in their schedule for the thing they are passionate about. These actors in particular show me how important it is to make time in life for my own passions. If something is truly important to you, you shouldn’t have to give it up; there’s always a way to make it work.

  1. Putting a show together is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

It is also the most fulfilling. The transformation of a production from the script to the stage in a matter of weeks is a process so hectic you cannot completely understand until you experience it. This makes it all the more meaningful when the show finally comes together. In fact, it was on one especially hectic day that I decided to major in arts management. I was performing in a Looking Glass show in the theater while, at the exact same time, trying to run a rehearsal in the barn for the main stage show that was about to go into tech week. I ran back and forth from the barn to the theater more times than I could count. And I can honestly say I have never enjoyed anything more.

I go off to college knowing that Little Lake not only helped me discover my passion, it prepared me to pursue it. Here’s to six years that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

See you next summer.

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