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Next up, Director of Development/Dramaturge in Residence, Lydia Anderson, recalls how she fell in love with theater.

My parents will tell you it was when I was 4. My father was in a community theater production of The Fantasticks. I was on the front row, in a ridiculous hat, and the actor playing El Gallo gave me a rose. SMITTEN! But honestly, I don’t remember that as much as my mother’s very delicate explanation of ‘rape’ (come on, what 4 year old wouldn’t ask what it was when it has a catchy little song?).

For me, knowing theater was something I wanted to do came a few years later. I was probably 11, and went to see a production of Godspell at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis. And I broke down. I just could not believe that a piece of art could move me like that. More than church, more than Sunday School, more than the Bible. (scandal!) I still count Michael Detroit (Jesus) and Christopher Swan (John the Baptist/Judas) as major influencers on my theatrical (and theological) life.

As far as dramaturgy, that bug began to bite when I became a Rent fan. I tried to explain to my parents why it was important, why even if they didn’t like it, this play was a big deal. I’m not sure my explanation was successful, but that’s when theater as a historical and cultural force became something I was at least a little interested in. That point came back just last week when the film version was on tv. I was sitting there with my boyfriend, who politely said he didn’t mind if we watched it, and I was singing along to every word, even the ones that were changed to dialogue, when he asked if Taye Diggs was in the original cast. Cue the explanation of how Rent put him on the map, along with everyone else, and how it was this amazing thing because you saw so many races and sexes and sexualities onstage at once, and how it dealt with AIDS and yes, everyone does have AIDS in it, but it helped kids like me in little old Mississippi understand a little bit more about life outside of high school, and I totally had that scarf that Mark wore because I could relate to him, and doesn’t he get it?

Well, maybe you have to be a Rent person to understand that particular example, but it’s these things, the big cultural moments and the plays everyone does a million times that make you start to look for the other plays and the other moments. There will always be Rents and Spring Awakenings and The Fantasticks and Godspells and Hairs, for better or for worse. But what’s great is that that means there will always be kids who are moved by it and then go out looking for more. I think that’s what happens to all of us in theater, especially fringe theater. We’re just looking for more.

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