Before The Party

When I got back from Berlin, that August, things seemed to be taking off for me in a way that they hadn’t in a very long time. By the end of the year away, I’d felt lost, drowning. Unable to find work, I was losing sight of what had driven me into the theatre in the first place. Now, though, with my grandmother’s death and all the relatives in town, I had plenty to distract me for the moment.

Then I got a fateful text: some old friends from college who hadn’t heard yet that I was back in the States reached out to me in desperation. They’d lost an actor, and would I be willing to jump in? The show opened in less than two weeks. I hopped on a bus to Great Barrington, reading the script—actually two scripts—on the way, and jumped headlong into a world I’d nearly—accidentally—left behind. I was thrilled.

Back in New York, after that show, tensions rose with my parents. I’d never been sure New York was the place for me anyway, and with Allen still in the apartment and no room for me to spare, 77 Bleecker Street was not the place for me. Not proudly, I fled back to Great Barrington, back to comfort.

From there I popped down to Philly with Dana, and spent a week there with her parents for Thanksgiving. I tacked on a trip to D.C. to visit Cecily and her family, who had recently settled there after finishing their stint in Nicaragua, and ended up staying with them for two weeks while I got to know their social sphere and tried in vain to crack into the vast theatre landscape of that city.

When I’d outstayed my welcome with the Wernicks, fearing New York City and the prospect of living with my parents, I found myself again in Great Barrington. Word got out that I was back in the area, and soon I had roles in the main stage production, as well as two senior thesis performances, even though I’d graduated two years earlier.

The landscape at Simon’s Rock is so fluid and unconventional that many people thought I hadn’t graduated and was back there to study. Others thought I worked for the college. It was a strange time for me. On one hand I was needed, and felt that I could offer something to my peers. I was working in theatre, and was even paid a small stipend for the main stage role. On the other hand, I was crashing with my girlfriend in my college town, unemployed, afraid to face my parents. At $15/hour, her lifeguarding income seemed unattainable to me. I felt bad relying on her support, but I did not see another option.

Graduate school, once a lofty nowhere-land, now seemed a real possibility. I began applying in earnest.

Christmas and New Year’s I survived with the Vorfreude of the upcoming rehearsals, the stress and exhilaration of applying to programs for which—I thought—I was colossally under-qualified, and a Village Harmony tour.

It was January and I was back in Great Barrington with Dana, waiting for the semester and my ridiculous rehearsal schedule to kick in. And then I met Ken.

Well, no. It wasn’t quite that simple. I attended a memorial service for Becky Fiske, a former professor, advisor, and mentor at Simon’s Rock. There, I encountered Ian Bickford, the provost, who told me about Daniel’s Art Party, a name which would become my salvation.

“We’re transforming the DAC,” he told me. “We’re hosting a joyful arts festival up there.”

I told him that I would be around anyway and that I wanted in. He put me in touch with Ken.

Ken Roht is a genius. He is a powerful mind and a force of nature. “Humble” is not a word that comes to mind, nor yet is “arrogant,” or “egoist.” He is brilliant, creative, eccentric, and capable of moving mountains. I think he knows it, too. When he talks of his past, his abilities or accomplishments, he is blunt and matter-of-fact, neither boasting nor modest. There ought to be a biography written of this man. I couldn’t have known it at time, but my world was about to be turned upside down.

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