As social animals we all have the joy and the curse of having a family. Now there are two types of families as far as I’m concerned: your inherited family and the one you choose. Both groups of people come with their intrinsic positives and negatives, but you rely on them nonetheless.

Living so far away from my relatives means that my chosen family plays a large role in my life. I have the family of roommates that, thankfully, blends into my family of friends. Astonishingly, I even have a South Dakota family in NYC, and we come together for dinners whenever possible. We go to shows and movies, work on productions and, more often than not, just sit around enjoying one another’s company. The best part of this familial bond is the lack of pretense and expectation. Pajamas and sweatpants are acceptable attire and every topic is up for discussion. Game nights are a major highlight as the excitement of Uno can lead to some deadly and dangerous alliances with catastrophic combinations of Draw Twos and Draw Fours.

But our family does more than just play together. Though a statistical impossibility, there is a actually a diverse group of South Dakotan theatre professionals working as stage, company and theatre managers, actors, set and costume designers, etc. While we come together personally, our professional relationships have also proven to be a unifying force. I’ve frequently collaborated with my fellow Midwesterners on a variety of productions. This, in turn, leads to meeting and working with other  companies who soon learn what happens when you meet one South Dakotan. When busy load-ins and strikes require multiple hands on deck, it’s easy to turn to the people you trust working with. Thus, Resonance EnsembleEPIC Theatre Ensemble, and The League of Professional Theatre Women have all employed the help of many South Dakotans on multiple shows. Through these relationships we’ve been able to expand our collective and individual working networks to include even more companies.

This collaboration has lent to an even more extensive and diverse family that every theatre person knows. As with any industry, those working together typically share common characteristics and interests. In theatre this is almost comically apparent; droves of liberal, free-spirited, booze-hounds with image issues work together every day–and those are just the actors! No matter the role one plays in a theatre company, each person has the shared ambition to create a piece of art that impacts others. This common interest forms a bond amongst the individuals that doesn’t happen in other professions. Despite our various personal backgrounds, the commonality of creativity forces us to work and interact for the greater benefit of the production. Like any family, there are disagreements and challenges, but our shared interest in the whole keeps us together. We celebrate the successes and and overcome difficulties like any family, and there are plenty of gay uncles for everyone!

Besides great entertainment, companionship and professional development, my families provide an invaluable support system. Though it sounds odd, it’s easy to feel alone in a city of millions when you only know a few. Combine that with the ebb and flow of homesickness, and depression can easily slip in. It’s those times when I rely on my families for comfort and advice. It’s those relationships that have taken me on my journey this far. These people with all their shenanigans and tomfoolery are my brothers in arms. We struggle to achieve a goal that we each set out on: to make a living doing theatre in NYC. Though we’re not as rugged as the pioneers who traversed the Oregon Trail (in real life), my companions and I are riding the wagon together on this Big City Adventure.


~ by Geoffrey on 20 April 2011.

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