A love letter to my community theater

To my dear, dear The Shea Theater (a love letter),

This Sunday I leave for a new life in Austin, Texas. I will be leaving behind Western Massachusetts for a new adventure, and when I think of all the friends and family I must say goodbye to, the Shea is not far from my thoughts. In fact, it’s probably the epicenter of my thoughts, just to the right of “I Will Miss My Mom” and “I Will Miss My Cat.” After all, it is because of this amazing theater that I’ve found such wonderful friendships and shared countless incredible experiences.

A friend of the family had been bugging me to audition for the plays years before I finally gave in—despite having done theater in high school, I was intimidated by the idea of auditioning with adults. There was no way I was good enough, I thought. What if they’re mean? I wondered. Finally, I gave in and auditioned for The Country Player’s “Oklahoma!” In 2008. I was a chorus part, but the feeling of returning to the stage was invigorating. Each year I looked forward to my summers home from college, so that I could do the yearly TCP musical.

Each year my parts got a little better, each year I learned and grew as an actor. Occasionally I would feel the rivalries and jealousies that come with being an actor, but it was always overshadowed by the tremendous support and camaraderie of the Shea family. Eventually I expanded my theater circle to include New Renaissance Players and Shea alum Ja’ Duke, and while I never was able to do an Arena Civic Theatre show I met many great ACT regulars and enjoyed watching them perform as well. Each group was so different, but each one amazing and welcomed me with open arms. After I was a chorus member I was a funeral director, a sassy Scotswoman, a mobster’s moll, an actor in a play-within-a-play, a pirate, a former debutante, a phantom, a nurse, a ditzy dancer, Alice (in Wonderland), and a fairy.

After moving home from college, I was excited to finally be able to do plays year round. Being a constant presence in the Shea rather than a once a year visitor, I was better able to make lasting relationships. In the past few years I have met the most amazing people who have become my most cherished friends. The other day a group of us met at Twisters and tried to make a “family tree” of how we all met each other. Eventually, the tree became more of a tangled bush—if one of us had never invited everyone over after rehearsal, if another one of us hadn’t invited a friend to join a play, if someone hadn’t seen that audition post, if someone else hadn’t taken a chance and met for drinks via a Facebook request, all these ifs that would have resulted in someone being absent from the group, or the group never existing at all. In the center of this loving tangle was the Shea.

This theater has given me so much, I cannot thank you enough. It’s given me a voice, a home away from home, an opportunity to be seen on stage, something to look forward to every single season, people who need me, and friends I will never forget. I wish I had a million dollars so that I could put in just a fraction of what the Shea is worth to me. I will never, ever forget my time here. I love this theater, these people, with every inch of my heart. Thank you, thank you so much for everything.

Until we meet again, “take pains, be perfect, adieu.” 
Ashley Blom

 

Originally posted as my Facebook status, but I decided to put it here to save it in a more organized fashion 😉

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