Written by Joey deBettencourt
Just after the applause died down at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver the set began to break apart. For the first time the crew began the task of packing the show up and fitting it into three semi trucks waiting at the loading dock. We, the actors, packed up our dressing room and slowly trickled out of the space we had called home for a month. It was a strange moment; soon we will be used to moving in and out of venues, sometimes after only half a week. The Ellie was different though, it is where we started and as one of the staff at the Denver Center said, “I hope you will always feel you have a home here.” It was sad to say goodbye to our dressers and crew who were local hires, but it makes me hope that we will find homes like this one across the country.
There is one other thing that makes this move unique. Normally we’d be moving on to a new city but sometimes during a tour you have weeks off from shows where a venue hasn’t been booked, these weeks are called layoffs. We don’t get many so it’s nice to enjoy a little break back home before heading back off. Also this one falls at a perfect time for me to realize I packed all wrong and need to bring completely different things. As my laundry tumbles dry and gets ready to move on to Texas I wanted to talk a little about coming home.
Yesterday, my yard was full of pears. Yes I have a yard and yes I have a pear tree, and if anyone wants some pears I have about a billion. I spent the morning picking the pears and then went over to my friend Ryan’s place to trade some pears for eggs. Ryan, also an Equity actor, has a house and three chickens, because Chicago is cool like that. As we chatted about the plumbing problems and the work he is doing on his house we also talked about theater.
I need to mention one thing here: in Chicago there is a lot of non-equity theatre and it is very much a part of the theatre scene. A reporter from the Chicago Tribune will review a play at a small 50 seat non-equity house the night before he goes to review Big Fish here for it’s pre-Broadway tryout. The Steppenwolf regularly opens up its Garage Theatre for non-equity companies to perform in. Ryan, and I both joined Equity recently and we were talking about the experience of moving into the union.
What I realized though is that the reason it is possible that the Peter cast can find a home so easily in Denver is that theatre is about inclusivity. It is different being in Equity and it is different working on a national tour than working on a show at my home base at Griffin Theatre but it is all theatre being made by passionate people. You can feel that in Chicago and you can feel it everywhere that theatre gets made.
I was getting drinks with John Moore, the former Denver Post Theatre Critic, one of my last nights in Denver and he mentioned how they were trying to create the Denver Actor’s Fund: a fund to help actors (Equity or not) with unexpected medical expenses. Theatre people are charitable people by nature. A friend from here in Chicago (a fantastic theatrical hyphenate) Carlo Lorenzo Garcia even has a project where he gives to various charities throughout the year, donating money every day.
Equity is not just a union of people who want to act or stage-manage and theatre artists in general are about more than just performing. It is a community that wants to give, whether it’s in the shows we perform or our daily lives. It is because of this that I have no fear that the Peter and the Starcatcher cast will find homes all along the way this year, because theatre people are everywhere.