Piedmont Players is family. I don’t necessarily mean the family you share a house with, or your blood relations. I mean the family with whom you share the failures, the successes, the fears, the pain, the laughs and the joy that come with working on a show — on-stage or off-stage.
It’s just like a family of sorts, because some family members you immediately connect with, and others, well ... ya just don’t. But you still work together for a common purpose — and it usually pays off in the end.
Piedmont Players is community. As I understand it, the early shows were done at Knox Junior High School (or middle school, now I think). What a journey from then to now. There are lots of people who helped formed the organization (including my father), but there are a great many more who have kept it alive and now thriving.
My son and I were visiting recently and attended the youth presentation of “A Comedy of Errors” at the new Norvell Theatre. I’m not sure who was more thrilled in our trio who saw it — my mother who just beamed that her community had this new “second” stage in town; her grandson, who was able to follow actors about the same age as himself speaking Shakespeare; or myself, who was so impressed that my home town was host to a community of generous, caring people dedicated to make such a beautiful space possible and to make such a fun event happen.
There are a great many factors that have helped shape me and my view of the world, and Piedmont Players was one of them — for the better to be sure. And I’ve no doubt the same remains true for many others. Piedmont Players informed me broadly in the early steps of my path. It gave me an outlet when I was a bit precocious in my adolescence. It provided a foundation for me and a place to be accepted when I was such an ugly, awkward, clumsy, goofy dweeb of a kid (and I was all of those, believe me). It kept me out of trouble when I was briefly a rebellious teen. And it elevated me to understand why my parents stayed involved in their community for so many years.
I mentioned before that Piedmont Players is family. Like so many, I hold many fond memories of those who have been a part of the group. Though I don’t see many of them as often as I’d like when I get back in town on occasion — and some have now passed away — I think of them often. A few of them remain some of my dearest friends to this day and they remain close with my wife and son.
I'm lucky enough to be a working actor and theatre producer thus far in my life, but who would’ve thought that in its first 50 years, so many individuals would have gone on to such success in their lives — particularly so many in the performing arts and other avenues. When you think of all of the college students who participated with the group who have gone on to great performing careers (or the like), along with all of the community members (young and old) who have tread the boards, worked the lights, or sold the tickets, who have also enjoyed such success in so many ways — it’s pretty remarkable, if not inevitable.
Most of all though, Piedmont Players reminds me of why so many communities have a local theatre group. Because it’s needed — because it’s essential. It’s part of how a community defines itself. When people ask where I’m from, I tell them about this idyllic place I grew up in called Salisbury. Sure the town and the county have issues to confront — that’s true everywhere. But as I describe the place to them, in the back of my mind I'm reminded how lucky I was to grow up where I did — and how I did. I’m trying to make sure my son has access to similar experiences. And as I continue my stories about my home town to those who ask, I am also reminded of how lucky Salisbury is to have Piedmont Players.
You really can’t make this stuff up. Lucky indeed.