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Finding Theater in the Smallest of Places

Gianfranco Lentini ruminates on leaving New York City, and what he encounters upon his return to his hometown. logo

Enjoying my last day in NYC with the amazing friends I've made.

As I packed my bags to leave the vast urban jungle of New York City and come back home to a completely different environment (i.e. forests, mutant spiders, no 24/7 dining), I couldn't help but to think to myself, "Well, theater will not be the conversation topic for the next month of my life. No one is really going to care. I can say, 'Yeah, I lived in NYC,' but who's going to respond when I mention Shakespeare or Off-Broadway?" It honestly was a difficult emotion for me after having dedicated 3 months to a show, that people would say, "That's nice," or "Were there any celebrities in it?"

Biting the bullet and the temptation to run back to my friend's apartment, I proceeded home, and by the grace of god was surprised by the immediateness in which my friends had come to sweep me out of my unpacking phase and to the closest frozen yogurt store (Side note 1: Frozen yogurt was never a 'thing' in my hometown, so it looks like I'm not the only one who did some growing up. Side note 2: I hadn't been home since the beginning of April - just to give you an idea of the time that elapsed).

Still acclimating to the smell of fresh air and the sound of, well, nothing -- no car horns, no noisy tourists, no Broadway show tunes pouring out of light-flooded buildings -- I guess you could say I was a little in denial of being back home. And, of course, that's when it happened. Who else would be the first familiar face I'd run into being back home than that of my high school drama teacher. And for the majority of you reading this, you'll understand that no one can begin to compare to your HS drama teacher.

We spent the next couple of minutes catching up. I listened to the success of Thoroughly Modern Millie, which earned my high school the Best Musical award at the Freddy Awards this past spring and discussed future shows we'd both love to see done. But eventually the conversation came around to me, and it was my turn to explain what I'd been up to since leaving my teacher's wings. I covered everything from college life to NYC, but what clearly caught her attention the most was the internship I'd successfully managed. Once again, for all you reading, you'll understand that look of pride on your drama teacher's face.

The intensity with which she listened and stared directly at me made me start to believe that maybe I'd written off my hometown too soon for a small, athletic town. It really was in that moment that a lot of my preconceived notions of home were beginning to change. Theater still existed, and it's not like it was going to disappear in my time away.

Skip forward a couple of days and I'm already heading back to my part-time job in clothing retail; once again, the last place I'd expect theater to be a topic of conversation. As if the Fates were trying to prove me wrong yet again, I find myself working daily alongside two actors (one who already had his career moving along and the other who needed all the advice on college he could get). Believe me, our discussions took off quickly after that: What's your favorite show? What's a good monologue? Which colleges do you suggest I look at for Drama? How can I build a better character?

I was slowly beginning to realize that everything I'd learned since last fall up to this summer has been preparing me to show those who've known me how much I've grown and show those I've just met how much they can learn as well. So, granted, I can't hop on a subway and student rush the next big show, but what I can do is take this time to relax, sit back, and realize how lucky I've been this summer. Come college, I'll have it all again. But for now, I'm here to share my experience with others and get them on their start too.

The moral of my story: Don't underestimate what you had first just because what you have now can light up and make noise. Art, Theater, and Life: It can all be found everywhere and anywhere you look. You just have to remember to open yourself to it and everyone else.


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