Put your name on the tag. Now.

“Please write your names on the tag of your black long-sleeve t-shirts.”

I’m not sure if I heard this instruction or if I was whispering to Polly. Either way–confession–I didn’t.

And so when our second dress rehearsal night came and I went to put my black long-sleeve t-shirt on and it wasn’t there, my heart did this weird little skip thing and my eyes widened. “Hey…anybody seen an extra black shirt lying around?” I asked the other women.

There had been a lot of black shirts about when I came downstairs. But I swear in that moment suddenly everyone was holding onto a shirt tightly, clutched in their arms like firstborn sons.

The gal in charge of costumes is a relative of mine (of course) whose children I babysat during the summers in high school (one of which is the afore mentioned fellow troublemaker, Polly). I put my hand on her arm and leaned close to tell her in a low voice, “So. I don’t think it’s an issue yet…but just so you know…I may or may not have lost my black long-sleeve shirt.”

“Is your name on the tag?” she asked.


She gave me a look of absolute disappointment. Of all people. Vanessa. The professional. From Chicago. The reliable. One of the leads. Really? Really, Vanessa? Is this what your bachelors degree in theater taught you?

“I know you were probably expecting this to happen to one of the 35 small children…but…I thought I knew where I left it?”

In a true act of divine intervention (appropriate, this was “Children of Eden” we were putting on) I happened to have worn black anyway that day. Granted, it was a short-sleeved t-shirt. My pasty white arms caught the light unforgivingly next to my sleeved companions.

I spent most of dress rehearsal night #2 engaging in one of the following two conversations:

“Hey! How’s it going? Good? Great, glad to hear it. Weather sucks though, doesn’t it? Yeah…well…anyway…are you sure the shirt you are wearing is yours? Are you sure, though? But no. Really. Are you absolutely sure? Okay…well, if you found it on a locker downstairs you might be wrong but…Okay…Do you mind if I smell you?”


“Where’s my shirt? Um. Well. Oh, shoot, gotta get on stage now. Chat later!”

Notes after rehearsal that evening were brutal. A line-up of three fierce costume-designing local moms stood in front of the cast and crew and announced–barked–demanded–with raised eyebrows and snarling lips, “Write your name on the tag of your t-shirt. There has already been a lost shirt.”

55 people looked right at me. Instead of turning red, my pasty arms gleamed whiter. How is that even possible!?

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

A random shirt was found crumpled up in the wings (No matter what anyone says, I don’t know how this happened!!!). Like a thief in the night my relative worked her magic; she grabbed the shirt and wrote my name on it before anyone else even knew it existed.

I was informed of my change in fortune by at least 10 different people. Word travels, folks. Costume ladies and their helpers and their children were all congratulating me and telling me how lucky I was that I didn’t have to wear one of the few XXL extras.

Another 20 people made passing remarks like, “Glad you found your shirt!” or “Oh, good deal. Where was it?”

Over the weekend I reported to my sister via Skype. She laughed throughout. When I finished she exclaimed, “That is SO hometown drama!”

I started giggling then too. Because it was. Absolutely.

Here I was, the one at home, Skyping Goshen College students ‘out east’ and talking about lost t-shirts and angry costume moms.

Totally absorbed and totally loving it.

The show has come and gone. I don’t know how that happened so quickly, but it did. I think I miss it more everyday (is that how that’s supposed to work?). All of a sudden all these community members that seemed to walk out of my childhood into my life again have disappeared, back to their respective farms. I’m amazed at how our strong the connection is in our community, and yet how independent we all are. These are people used to riding in tractors alone.

This experience has been so rich. I’m asked all the time, “are you glad you came home?” and I say, over and over again, “yes, yes, yes.” I don’t speak for our final product, because frankly, I wasn’t in the audience, heck if I know. But being in the final product? That was a truly special experience. Not for the solos (although gee, that was fun), not for the resume or the networking–but for the people. For seeing people I love–or loved getting to know–so passionately pour themselves into their understanding of theater.

Theater is alive and well folks, and I’m feeling re-inspired to keep it rollin’. No matter where, no matter the size of the city, we’ve got stories to tell.

And together, these can be great, great stories that unite us, heal us, challenge us, bruise us, or maybe just fill up our schedules. Give it a try and decide for yourself, I guess. Oh, but word of advice? Make sure to write your name on the tag of your costume.




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