Poster in Avignon, France

A few thoughts on how theatre and travel are kind of similar, at least to me…  Do you have any other ideas?

They both tear you out of your shell

I was really really shy as a kid. I didn’t say a word to my kindergarten teacher for six months.  I let people get away with things because I didn’t want to speak up.  And then I fell in love with theatre.  I got to play the romantic girly part in my grade 8 production of Molière’s L’Avare (and I don’t care that I got the part of Elise because I have the same name and it would be less confusing for everyone). All through rehearsals, our gym/French/drama club teacher would yell “plus fort!” from the back of the auditorium and I found my voice, as cheesy as that may sound.  After that, high school plays got me to hang out with older, cooler, crush-worthy kids while chanting “stage right, stage right, we won’t give up the fight!” like the nerds we actually were.

When you travel by yourself, you have no choice but to firmly make that terrified part of yourself shut up: you go up to people for directions, for help, to book a bed in a hostel, and then, slowly but surely, you start going up to people purely for the hell of it.  You talk to the cool kids because no one knows you are not that cool in real life.  As a traveller, you can be a new you in every new place.  This makes potential gaffes much less scary (if you screw up or embarrass yourself horribly, you’re leaving town anyway), and potential friendships worth the risk (what risk?)

The friendships are intense

…and sometimes very short-lived.  Working on a play is not unlike travelling with an ad-hoc group of backpackers that seems to form organically on the road.  Friendships are made intense by the circumstances.  We are thrown together into sometimes do-or-die situations and we come out of them a tight family.  You end up telling each other things after one beer you wouldn’t dare tell your oldest buddy.  There’s something really special that happens between people when you’ve experienced each other’s most tired, dirty, vulnerable sides.

When the curtain comes down on a last performance, we hug and cry and promise to do this again soon. Next season. For sure.
When the travellers’ group disbands, there are hugs and tears and promises to visit each other in everyone’s respective countries soon.  Next year. For sure.

It’s beautiful and intense and sad.  I made some of my (still) closest friends both through theatre and through travel.  But there are also those people I sometimes (more or less secretly) yearn for whom I haven’t seen since closing night in grade 12 or that last, midnight bear-hug in the Kyleakin youth hostel common room ten years ago.

Time is weird

Travel and theatre are ephemeral.  Once it’s over, that’s it (at least for that version of it).  You can take pictures, you can even film it in HD, but performances will will come out flat and the colours won’t seem quite right.  So if people don’t come see your play or don’t hit the road with you, there’s not much you can do if you want them to experience it.  snooze=lose.