My family first encountered Bob Thompson when we were camping (at what was then our family run Camp-Tel Family Campground). Part of the grounds includes five acres of apple trees, and we were wandering around amongst them when we stumbled upon a man… talking to the trees. What we didn’t know at the time was that Bob was an actor at the nearby Peninsula Players – an outdoor theater located just south of Fish Creek, WI – and he was practicing his lines.
Bob took a liking to my sister and I, and he hooked us up with opportunities to usher and help park cars (guide – not drive ) – and then we’d get to see the plays for free. (He also held up his fellow actors after the show until they had signed our playbills.) Every single time I set foot on the Players’ ground, I’d get butterflies in my stomach. This was, and is, a place of magic to me – and I fell hard for the theatre.
When I left home for college, I was beyond thrilled to learn that the city’s performing arts center was located right on the university grounds (I didn’t have a car) – and better yet, they offered student rush tickets. If a student arrived an hour before the show, and they still had seats open, they would sell the tickets at extreme discounts. I saw everything I could.
Theater has, of course, gotten much more expensive in adulthood – but it’s still so very worth it to me. Last night, I got to sit in a theater for the first time since before the pandemic – surely the longest I’ve gone without seeing a show since that first Player’s show so many years ago. I’m super thankful to Bonnie and PA club for letting me crash their Kinky Boots party! (And to Paramount in Aurora for being strict on safety measures – for checking vax cards at the door and requiring masks – and to all the ushers who spent the duration of the show reminding patrons to keep their masks on.)
It’s been almost thirty years since my very first show – and last night, I still got those same butterflies as the lights dimmed and the music began.