A Theater Person’s Love Letter to Theater People
By Amanda Finn
Photo Credit: Graphic by Andrea Klohn
One of my very favorite things to do is to meet up with theater people. As my editor at Newcity knows (hey Kevin!) I can gab with people for hours about the ins and outs of the art. Theater folks bond over favorite shows (or least favorite shows), new work, artists we admire or just the craft itself. When it comes to people gushing over a thing as beloved as theater, it seems there is always too much to talk about.
Loving theater for so many of us is more than just “a hobby,” or what we do for a living. For me, theater is what helps make life beautiful. When I spoke with Chicago critic Catey Sullivan last week and she articulated that same thought, I was immediately taken aback. No one has ever said that to me before although I’ve said it to other people. I realized then how special theater people really are. We all come at this art for a different reason, however, it’s the life we find within that keeps us in it.
When I moved to Chicago almost a year ago, I felt intimidated by the massive community I had entered. . I knew a handful of people who have helped keep me sane over the last year living in the big city, but I was grateful to find so many new friends and colleagues through the love of theater. It brings together people from entirely different walks of life in a way that so few things can.
Obviously there are things we disagree about, especially when it comes to plays or musicals, though those things don’t seem to be very important. Unlike sports there doesn’t seem to be a serious team devotion kind of rivalry in the world of theater. I don’t personally care, for example, if you don’t like Hamilton–I hate Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. You hate CATS? Great! So do I! We’ll tease each other now and then about show disagreements, but nothing to the level of “the Bears still suck.”
I think part of the reason we find kinship with one another is because, in many ways, we’ll work hard to see theater as often as we can. Working in box offices, volunteering to usher or hang posters, working day jobs in the theater,donating time or money or whatever we do to support and see the art. We do all of these things with so much love that we want to spread it around to everyone.
Lately I’ve been seeing five shows a week between my multiple commitments. It’s tiring, don’t get me wrong, but I love it. I especially love it when someone I know asks me “what’s good” and, because I know them, I can curate my answer based on what they’ll connect with the most. Not all of us will like the same shows, but there is a show for all of us. I think that’s why we have something to bond over. The story itself isn’t what makes the magic of theater. The magic of theater makes the story.