The Kindness of Strangers

In my spare time, I’m involved in community theatre. I have been performing since the age of 3 when I played an Angel in my church Christmas Nativity play and tried to steal the scene from the Baby Jesus. Since then, my passion became the stage.

16298804_10155079499963746_8308319323543457934_nCurrently I’m playing a role in a comedy entitled The Red Velvet Cake War, written by the authors of the famous 80’s sitcom The Golden Girls. Set in Texas, the play centers around three “unique” cousins and contentious — albeit comically crafted —  family relationships that lead to a cake baking battle and a family reunion wrought with challenges. It’s very funny, very silly, and filled with crazy characters that — despite their Texas drawls — probably resemble someone you know.

Comedy is tricky. During the 10 weeks of rehearsal, you receive little feedback. The director and stage manager hear the same jokes day after day. You work your lines and try different variations along the way. But you wonder as you approach opening night, will people laugh? Are we funny?

Last Sunday, as my friend and fellow cast member Kathleen and I departed the stage door, a sweet older lady in a wheel chair stopped us to say, “Thank you for a wonderful afternoon that gave me so much joy. I laughed and laughed … I really needed that.”

Now, as much as I crave delving into the crazy nooks and crannies of the characters I create, I needed to hear that. As much as I enjoy the creative process and the rush that comes from standing in the spotlight, I needed the validation. And this one woman who I’d never met before — this stranger — gave it to me.

I think many people are like that. Perhaps that’s one reason social media thrives. We post photos on Instagram and Facebook, comments on Twitter, moments on SnapChat and Blogs on our web sites. And then we wait to see who Likes, Follows, Comments, and Views our stuff.

Let’s be honest, ya’ll. Don’t you Look at your posts after you put them out there to see what response they received? How many times do you check for Notifications to find out who liked that Facebook photo or commented on your post? As human beings in the midst of busy lives, we crave connection and a reminder that someone out there cares and notices us. And, when a total stranger bestows upon us a gracious look, a thoughtful remark, or a gentle hug, that is powerful.

Like Blanche DuBois from Tennessee Williams Streetcar Named Desire — a role I’ve always longed to play (hint hint) — I too have “always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Sometimes, these strangers give me the best gift of all. Recognition that I gave them something. For me, it’s not simply the creative role and character development, the applause, the on-stage/off-stage friendships formed, the cast parties, the footlights, the Aqua Net, the costumes, and the roles that fuel my passion. It’s knowing that somewhere out there is somebody who needs a moment of escape. A moment to not think about the challenges of their life or the world today. A moment of laughter in the darkness where I am their light.

I’m an artist. And like most artists, I need validation. I like it when I have a friend out there in the audience to support and celebrate my passion for performing. And, I like to know if what I’m putting out there resonates or gives joy.   I’m pretty sure many people feel the same way. We need the kindness of strangers — and the kindness of friends and those we walk through life with — to let us know we’re on the right path, support us, and applaud our efforts.

In this show, the laughter feeds my spirit. The smiling faces I see as I leave the theatre tell me I’ve given them something. And that gives me great satisfaction … as do the Likes and Comments I receive on items I post on social media that my friends take time to notice.

But to those people in the dark … those strangers … Thank you …

— Jenni


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