Essay from Joan Beebe


I guess my first introduction to the stage was when I was a girl scout and my role was that of the Prince’s Herald in a play called Cinderella in Flower Land.  As a 7th grader, it was a fascinating experience.
Many years ago, after graduation from high school, I was persuaded by a friend to join an amateur acting organization.  It was known at that time and chartered by the name of the Catholic Theater of Rochester but years later merged into the Blackfriars. The aim of that group, as I remember, was not only to instill an interest in the acting field but to pursue well known plays from Broadway and produce them over the New Year’s holiday at a large theater known for bringing in popular plays and musicals  The rehearsals started months ahead and were long and intense.  However, there was always someone who found something funny in a line or two and would start laughing and soon the whole caste joined in.  It was really a good stress reliever.
We had meetings every month and, at times, the director would decide to have a few people do a short workshop play.  The rest of the members would then watch and listen and critique the actors.  Of course, the director would too and he, sometimes, would interrupt to give suggestions about body language or vocal expressions, etc.  When a play was going on at the theater, we also learned about the behind the scenes work.  There would be people for props, make up, prompter, lighting and someone who stood by in the wings to make sure the actor made his/her entrance on stage at the right time.
The musicals, produced by a different organization, basically followed the same criteria which included long rehearsals for months, teaching the actors their actions and places on the stage. There would be a lot of songs to learn and, of course, everything has to be memorized.  Both for the plays and the musicals, opening night was a night full of anticipation, nerves and excitement.  At the end of the run for these plays, there would always be a caste party which was a celebration of the well- attended and good response from the public and enjoying ones- self in the knowledge that all the hard work paid off in the enjoyment of the audiences and looking forward to the next project.