When I first started running the Instagram and Twitter for DTF, I found myself wanting to tag every picture with #theatrefamily. I don’t really know if that’s a hashtag that people use or search for, but so many of our photos, I felt, could be described that way.
The familial aspect of theater is something that a lot of people in the industry describe. I, certainly, have felt it everywhere I have worked, and growing up with a family of musicians and visual artists, it is not a feeling I am unfamiliar with. But at summer stock, and I would say particularly here in Dorset, that feeling is exaggerated. We all work together and live together. The company is so small that it can sometimes feel like everybody knows your business—and I love that. If I have a bad day at work, everyone makes sure I’m okay when I leave. During tech for the first show, Kristen the company management apprentice and Rachel the ASM brought candy to the shops who were working late. We’re all invested in each other and as a result, invested in each other’s work, and in the work as a whole. At the beginning of this summer, costume shop manager Lee Villesis and Technical Director Kevin Olesky cited this familial aspect of the job as one of the reasons they do theater and one of the reasons they continue to work here.
A lot of the company is made up of returning members from last summer. At company gatherings, we share stories of parties or events from previous years as one might do with their family at Christmas dinner. While we all came back because we love the theater and because we love Vermont, we also came back because we wanted to be together.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because of the way the cast of Sherlock is structured. This show particularly pulled together a network of people who not only function as a family, but literally are a family in a number of cases. Kirk Jackson and Oliver Wadsworth, playing Sherlock and Oscar Wilde, have been together for years; Margaret Perry and Brian Dykstra, the director and Moriarty, are married, as are Jennifer Rohn and Chris Edwards, playing Lillie Langry and Watson. Their beautiful daughter worked in the office with us during rehearsals for the show. Jenny, Chris, Kirk, and Oliver were all around while I was at Bennington, where our artistic director Dina Janis, and our Producing Director Michael Giannitti, also teach. As aresult, they’ve all worked together often in the past years (and of course, taught me everything I know). Margaret and Brian have often worked with Dana Berger, who plays Mrs. Tory in the show. Jess, the stage manager, worked here with Kirk in 2006. Theater is such a small world, we are all connected—we have to be connected.
But it isn’t just Sherlock. This week the cast of Outside Mullingar arrived, as well as the director, John Gould Rubin, and some of the designers. During meet and greet we learned that Dina Janis learned to direct by assisting John. Our set designer, Narelle, was the first set designer that John really worked with, and he talked about what she had taught him.
I learned those things while I was sitting next to Ashley, who I worked with a number of times while we overlapped at Bennington. Mae, our house manager, sat on the other side of the room; her and Ashley worked together years before I got to college when Mae was a senior and Ashley was a freshmen. Her apprentice, Asa, was in the show that I directed this spring. The people who I would call if I ever needed performers, designers, technicians, or stage managers were all in the room with me. I hope that in thirty years, I can still be in a room with them, telling the people we will teach together how they once taught me.