How do you go from a country girl who found no greater thrill than to trod around the barnyard barefoot hugging any animal that would allow it to a big city theatre judge? Not a critic but a technical judge that determines the award winning productions, actors, etc. The Henry Awards are Colorado's version of the Broadway Tony Awards. Sounds heady and presitgous? Not really. Each judge, of which there has to be 5 per production, has a specific list of criteria to evaluate each specific category. It turns into quite a bit of work and often worry. Theatres treat judges kindly but often seat you in locations that make evaluation difficult. Understandable on their part as we are "comped guests." We have been reamed and ridiculed in the news by theatre production personnel and critics. One day I wonder if I know what I am doing and the next I think I am pretty good at it. I frequently have to go back and reread the pages of technical criteria to remind myself of what I am looking for.
As told in the blog post about influential people in my life, I fell into theatre because of my height. The director needed to cast someone shorter than the lead girl. My stage experience was not a positive one. I was not nervous but could not remember the lines that went with the scenes and often messed up the lines. My ADD personality was not conducive to repeating anything; holding attention on a repetitive behavior was like herding cats as it is said. I got the theatre bug after that experience but not an acting bug. I have never desired stage recognition but do love the creativity of putting on a production.
After the challenge of "January Thaw" I stayed involved in the Thespians organization and activities throughout high school, learning about make up, costumes, and building sets. Although for the next 20 years my theatre experiences were only as an audience member as I rasied a family. In 1990 I started volunteering as an usher at Denver Center Theatre Company, a theatre group that won a "Tony" (yes a real Broadway Tony) for best regional theatre. The Company ran four theatres and an graduate acting program. For ten years I watched and learned about every aspect of theatre. The production building was always so fascinating as you could see how they made wigs, costumes masks, designed sets and every element of production construction. They even had one room of just "stuff" boxes, buttons and miscellaneous gadgets that often were needed for props. I eventually had to quit as an usher due to an accident that prevented my abilities to perform. By that time I had clocked well over 1,000 performances for my resume.
When my second oldest granddaughter was very young it was evident that she was very musical and theatrical. For the next 15 years I would shuttle her to classes, auditions, rehearsal and productions. With almost every production I became involved in some aspect: theatre manager, props design, actors headshots, performance photos, and program design and production. On a couple of occasions I developed musical productions for my grandkids for talent shows and competitions. When the two youngest were in middle school, I created a Emmett Kelly style number for them about two street orphans set to the music of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer. They won first place over senior high students even one set from the Denver School of the Arts. If I were young enough I would teach classes in the art of telling a story without words. I believe it brings the audience closer to the performer.
I continued to see theatre productions every chance I got and every where I traveled including Scotland until one day I saw the Colorado Theatre Guild website and a page about judges. I contacted them and submitted evaluations about shows that I had seen. I was hired for the following season which has been six years ago. I travel as far as 100 miles one direction to judge shows and to a variety of theatre sizes. I see about 50 shows a year as a judge and then an additional 20 to 30 just because I want to see them.
In 2015 I took the theatre granddaughter to New York for a Broadway play marathon. We saw seven plays in five days. It was fun and enlightening. Denver theatre has great actors but they can't compare to the budgets that provide the elaborate Broadway sets.
I returned to Broadway again this year with my third oldest granddaughter after we caught a play in Lancaster, PA at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre where I have had, hands down, the best dinner at a dinner theatre.
I never tire of seeing plays but I do tire of the low quality of the modern scripts. The best "new script" I read as part of a theatre play reading group was by a local playwright titled "Beets." The story centered around a Beet farming family close to the German POW camp in Northern Colorado during WWII. The families son was fighting in Europe and they were faced with having to hire the POW's to harvest their crops as all of the young American men were off to war. Maybe it was the country girl in me but I jumped at the chance to produce the play and jumped into the marketing side selling it to every farmer via the County Extension Agents, the Beet Growers Association and also to every senior citizen facility in the Metro area. The production was sold out, extended, sold out again with a waiting list. Maybe I missed my calling but at age 70 I am not going to start over.