As I walked into the theater, two happy, little people greeted me. “Hewo, Pofesso Howad Hill”.
We had been running The Music Man productions all week, and I could always expect a joyous greeting from two of the littlest members of our cast. I played Professor Harold Hill, and they always sought me out just to say hi. Their little lisps made their greeting all the more endearing.
I always took time to kneel down or pat their heads and call them by name. I don’t think they even knew my real name, but it didn’t matter. I had learned their names and their bright, shiny faces were greeting enough.
As the musical production was coming to a close, our lines were either learned, or it was too late, and we would have to fake it. It was then, as the dress rehearsals and the production started, that the best of the interaction between cast members began.
It was during this time that I thought of an article I had read in Time magazine. It was a report on a study about happiness. The researchers had spent years compiling statistics from people all over the world. The interesting part was that those of us living in industrialized countries were the least happy, while those living in poorer countries were the happiest of all.
Once the statistics were compiled, the researchers then tried to make sense of it all. The final conclusion they had drawn was that what makes us happiest of all are the relationships we form. In essence, the deeper the relationships, the more profoundly happy a person was.
In the industrialized world in which we live, we find our lives hectic and full of activities. Most relationships we form are shallow and superficial. Gone are the days of sitting on the porch and visiting with passers-by. Gone are the days of visiting with a neighbor over the fence. And with our affluence, we no longer need to intertwine our lives as a matter of survival.
But in the poorer countries, people have a great dependency on those around them. Every person in the commnity must work together so that all can survive. They are often found working side by side in the fields, factories, or doing other tasks. These close proximities and interdependencies on one another make the relationships strong, deep, and meaningful.
That is why I think the memories I have of the theatrical productions I have been in are some of the happiest and most vivid of my life. Even though the rehearsals last for only a few months, the intensity of the work brings us into close contact one with another. We learn about each other’s idiosyncrasies, personalities, and interesting habits. We share our food with each other and enjoy each other’s’ recipes. We get to know each other’s ups and downs. But most importantly, we share time together and learn to depend on each other. We learn to count on each other being where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be, to deliver the lines we count on, and to deal with the props for which we each are assigned.
It doesn’t matter if a person’s role is big or small. The production can’t move forward without everyone involved. The lead may have the most lines, but his or her lines would fall flat if the rest of the cast wasn’t there.
There are, of course, many moments of frustration, but we learn to forgive and forget, and move on. We gain insights into why each of us is the way we are. We learn to appreciate each other’s talents and abilities, but most of all, we begin to see each other as unique and interesting individuals.
I often have people ask me about the glitz and the lights and the applause, and if that makes all the work worth it. My answer would have to be a resounding “no”. That all fades from memory quite quickly.
But the times talking back stage, or after and before rehearsal, the smiles and friendship, and the “Hewo Pofesso Howad Hill” greetings will linger with me forever.