Hi, my name is Hildy and I'm a Summer Savoyard.
I grew up in a house where Gilbert and Sullivan was a daily occurrence. I danced across the living room to patter songs before Woodstock even happened. I knew that D'Oyly Carte was not something that held the things that sat on the end tables. It wasn't easy to live in a house of music nerds in the 1960s.
It was also a house with show tunes coming out of the stereo; Camelot, Hair, My Fair Lady and South Pacific to name a few. I suppose I was indoctrinated into becoming a theater person from very young. The magic of Cinderella – and who didn't think Stuart Damon was the most Charming – thrilled me. The music was great but the magic of seeing scenery move effortlessly without a magic wand sealed the deal. I wanted to know it all.
As soon as I got to high school, I made a bee line for the theater club. I did not, could not fit in. They were THE beautiful people. I was poor, nerdy, and definitely not a pretty face. Nor were there any voice lessons for me and I had a healthy dose of stage fright. I was doomed. I hear some of you making sounds of agreement. I'm glad to have the support of the group.
My mother was my enabler. At my lowest ebb of self-confidence, the summer before I was a junior…OK, OK, in 1977, she took me to a production of H.M.S. Pinafore at the Forum. There were people my age singing and dancing to old favorites and looking like they were having a good time! I wanted in. I would do anything to get there.
Long story short, the next summer I auditioned for my favorite, the Mikado. I made it into the chorus, showing all those beautiful people in high school I could do it too. I felt warm, welcome and happy to meet new people, feeling an equal in the conversations. I didn't know the insidiousness of the theater life. Chorus was the entry to harder stuff – set work. I was given a ride to the shop and since I already knew how to paint and bend nails with a hammer, I was sucked deeper into the habit that is community theater. I could have stopped at one but by the end of the show I knew I was in trouble when high school started again, I started aching for another show.
The musical that year was Oklahoma and again I was in the chorus. Something was lacking though. I didn't feel the camaraderie of the summer. I didn't fit in like I did during the summer. I felt like school was all name brands while the Savoyards was the Island of Misfit Toys. I wanted to go back to the summer. I began marking the calendar days off until the next show.
That first show was 1978 and changed my life forever. I've met others in other places and when I share that I'm a Summer Savoyard sometimes I meet the smile of another. We sit and share stories of shows, people and parties we've known. There is a bond that no words can describe. Maybe it's memories of youth, dreams that are semi-fulfilled or even a sense of finding that elusive place were, other than home, they let you in because you have a place to belong. It’s very heady and addictive emotion indeed.
There are others that I've met that smile when I mention the Savoyards and say “Oh, I sang with them!” Ah, those people are those that hung at the edges, their hearts were not touched as mine was by the people I worked with. Those wonderful souls that are friends sometimes closer than kin. Crazy people who share the stories of adventures that are too weird to ever happen again. Unfortunately, some of those people have left for jobs in other places or arguments with others one year. Some are gone to the great proscenium theater in the sky and having the greatest show ever. I miss them and love to find people to trade stories of them with. Unfortunately, I think I may have hooked my children on the same high of summer that caught me.
They say that once you're a pickle, you can never go back to being a cucumber. I'm a Savoyard for too long to even consider being a normal person again. I'm here at this group to share my story and possibly find some ideas on how to make it through the winter until I can get my next fix. All this and more make me what I am, a Summer Savoyard.