This week, meet Hannah Ettema, a very fun young lady I met through Twitter. She's pretty awesome, you should follow her on Twitter too.
It was three days before our opening night and I felt like crying.
Transitions were rough at best. Some of my cast was sick. I forgot my theatre keys at the theatre. But everyone kept telling me it’d come together. That seemed as likely as a Mac and PC holding hands.
As the Stage Manager for Missoula Community Theatre’s production of Miracle on 34th St., I held the production together with my very two hands.
Thanks to my mom, I grew up appreciating the arts. We frequently traveled to theatres to see touring Broadway shows or musical concerts. One of my favorite places, Stratford, Ontario, will forever be a magical place to me. The Stratford Festival, the largest classical repertory theatre in North America, has hosted the likes of Maggie Smith, Alec Guinness, William Shatner, Christopher Plummer and others. Every season they put on a dozen shows taking you to Verona, Neverland, or Ancient Greece. A mere 3 hours away from my Michigan hometown, Stratford transported me far off places.
My high school didn’t have community theatre or any theatre worth mentioning. As I passed through my teen years, drooling as I watched behind-the-scenes extras of my favorite movies, I found I not only loved the storytelling, but the way in which it happened.
Due to my other commitments and lack of ambition, I never delved into theatre until moving to Missoula.
A few months after graduating from Michigan State University, I got a job doing communications for the National Forest Foundation and moved to Western Montana. Fast forward a year later, and I found myself at the Missoula Community Theatre’s Volunteer Appreciation Night.
I have a strong belief that things happen to people who show up. And that night, I showed up. I happened to meet the head Volunteer Coordinator Guru, Matt. He sensed my excitement and eagerness to help and gave me a tour of the theatre while introducing me to key people.
My willingness to jump in was how I ended up on the Stage Crew for MCT’s first show of the season, Camelot. My backstage duties entailed moving furniture, helping with a costume change, and crocheting. Well, crocheting wasn’t exactly a duty but it did help pass the time.
Sometime during my 3 week stint on Camelot I caught the attention of the right people. The Director, Joe, also the Creative Director for MCT, recommended me to Michael, the Executive Director of MCT and the Director of the next MCT production, Miracle on 34th St. When Matt passed this information along to me, I was flabbergasted. No really, I wasn’t trying to be awesome in a way that screamed: OMG-I’m-the-best-thing-that-has-ever-happened-backstage-use-me-again. I simply liked being involved with great people.
And I was scared to say yes. I had never been a Stage Manager in any capacity and I had hardly worked backstage in any fashion. But I listened to my gut and a pin I frequently see on Pinterest: Do what scares you.
And you know what?
I owned it. One disastrous cold (earning me the nickname Hans). 50+ cast members. 14 shows. Hundreds of cues. And a lot of laughter.
I didn’t believe it would come together, but somehow, magically it did.
My coworkers and friends asked why I was doing it. Why was I sacrificing 4 weeks of my evenings and weekends while working full-time? My answer changed frequently, each time trying to articulate my passion for the arts and storytelling and my belief that it is not limited to New York or Los Angeles or a movie theater. More than 60 people came together to make something bigger than themselves happen for the community. None of us would have been there if we didn’t love it.
Sure, I had my bad moments and doubts. But those moments made the best ones all that much sweeter. Nailing that scene change. Dancing with glow sticks in the booth to make the cast smile during a long weekend. Coming to tears before our last show.
I’ve already made it very clear that I want to jump in again. There will always be a place for stories and community. And where those two come together, that is where I’ll be.