Opening Letters

The Play’s the Thing

discovering a new world of fun with the family by stepping onto the stage

Reid Sollberger |

The author on stage.
The author on stage.

I admit, I was playing the long game. In the summer of 2015, I took my family to see the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild’s production of  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It was always a favorite of mine, and I was excited to take my kids to it. I watched the performers on stage as they displayed their talents, and I began to regret not trying out for it. It seemed like fun!

On our way out, I saw that the following summer, the Guild was doing The Music Man. “They’re going to need a lot of kids in the cast!” I told my own children. “Why don’t we all try out?”

"I started off as the one just listening to the other actors telling stories about previous productions. Now, I’m one of the ones with lots of tales to tell."

Thankfully, they were all on board, and I went to the auditions with the three kids in tow.

We all ended up being cast. And almost one year after watching some people perform “Go, Go, Go Joseph” on the stage of the State Theatre, I was standing next to them belting out the awesomeness about “The Wells Fargo Wagon.”

I can’t begin to describe the fun we had doing that show, the memories that we made, and the friends we met. It was everything that I had hoped. Afterwards, my wife asked me, “You’re going to do more of these, aren’t you?”

Yep. Over the next few years, I did a black comedy, a farce, another big 1960s musical, and a historical drama. Hell, I even wrote a play and performed it because I got tired of being cast as the show’s main jerk-face (although I’ve been told that I’m quite adept at playing jerk-faces). I really love performing in front of people; The goosebumps I get waiting for the curtain to rise are like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

The problem is, I wish I could do every show. But I can’t. I have a lot of responsibilities, so I have to pick and choose which shows to be a part of. Lately, it’s been frustrating because I see shows struggle to fill out their casts because not enough people show up for auditions. This past summer, Performance Anxiety’s production of Asphalt Christmas had to be canceled because not enough actors were available. That same time, Regis Community Theatre had to rely on several (very talented) middle schoolers to play adults in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Theater is important to us as a society. It can entertain us, challenge us, show us someone else’s perspective, make us laugh, make us cry, and make us sing. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to have been a part of that in the Chippewa Valley over the last three years.

So if you’ve ever thought that you’d like to try out for a show, now really is the time. Between the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre, and smaller companies such as Speck of Dust and Regis Community Theatre, there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to perform here in Eau Claire. The Heyde Center and the Mabel Tainter would love to have your talents as well!

Yes, it is hard work. Yes, you give up some of your free time. Yes, you will stress about missing lines, being off key, and forgetting your mark.

I can also tell you that you will meet new people. They may seem a bit crazy at first, but they are a welcoming bunch once you get to know them. I’ve made so many new friends doing theater, I really regret not doing it sooner. You will also have a lot of fun. I started off as the one just listening to the other actors telling stories about previous productions. Now, I’m one of the ones with lots of tales to tell. And you will also enjoy performing. I’ve developed a new appreciation for the medium.

And for those of you with kids who are interested in performing, doing theater is a fun activity you can do together! I can’t play seventh-grade basketball with my son (I’m sure I would kick some middle school ass), but I can be in a show with him and have fun that way.

 I really hope anyone who reads this considers attending an audition. If you think that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow, I’ll remind you of the words of Harold Hill: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.”