[Image description: Photo is of a slender white person wearing a cream-colored winter coat, dark gray button-down shirt, long, fuzzy white scarf, and fitted dark brown boots standing on the edge of a wooden stage.]
I’ve been a theatre kid since about age ten. Cast as a “merchant/servant” in a summer youth production of Aladdin, I caught the theatre bug (or rather, it caught me). I’d thought when I signed up that I would want to work behind the scenes on set design. Instead, I suddenly craved the spotlight. Eager for more “work,” I made a diagram of the ‘palace’ floor for my personal use and thought intently about my purpose in the story. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t study Stanislavsky.
I milked my one line for all it was worth. “There would be peace in the marketplace if they would just lock him up!,” I snarled and tutted as a merchant in Act I, later transforming into a meek and gormless palace servant for Act II. It felt glorious to get a larger role in the next summer production, but even in that first, tiny role, I had carved out a space in fantasy that made me feel integral to making Aladdin’s story ‘work.’
Unlike me, the characters I played knew exactly where they belonged in the world, and they lived in that satisfaction. I, their storyteller, lived in their satisfaction second-hand. I started to find a role in the local theatre community too, clicking with fellow actors in ways that I never had with my classmates. I felt a sense of belonging in being among creative people working toward a common goal. No longer just the shy art girl, I was an actor–and I could be anything I chose.
Over the years, I acted in several other shows and attempted tech work. I discovered that I was funny. I also discovered (during an Edgar Allan Poe-themed production) that I could be very creepy and unsettling when I wanted to be.
The final curtain was always bittersweet. I wanted the magic to last just a little bit longer. I remember keeping the heavy makeup on as long as possible (yes, even the Poe makeup–I’m sure I frightened some locals during that cast party). Acting became about more than attention; acting was a retreat. It helped me feel safe to try new things, even silly and embarrassing things. It demanded that I be embarrassed, proud, menacing, hapless, and fierce, over and over. Theatre gave me space to be all those things without losing my place in the community.
Now, every character that I have ever played lives in my mind, but I am more than the sum of them. And that mysterious extra bit that’s just me? That’s what I bring to my kink life. It doesn’t surprise me that many kinksters are also theatre people. The craft, the thrill, the freedom to “play pretend” and explore without losing the respect of peers–kink makes room for all these precious things. Kink gives me experiences that even theatre couldn’t. But I wouldn’t be comfortable in kink if not for my time with theatre, and theatre is special to me too.
It’s been a couple of years since I was last in a production; my current schedule just doesn’t allow for the weeks of consistent commitment that theatre requires. I miss it. I take what I learned from acting into my activism, my kinky relationships, my friendships, and my work. These things all belong in my life. And when I have time for a show? I’m auditioning.