I am not entirely sure how this all happened. Well, maybe I can figure out some of it. It has probably got something to do with the fact that I always feel that I should ‘pay something back’ and that I am vain enough to believe what I have to offer is enough.
A couple of years ago I was in a play, which had been put on by an amateur dramatic group that mainly does classic stuff, and I was approached by someone in the cast who asked if I was interested in being on the committee. I said I would think about it and I did think about it.
I thought that it takes a lot of hard work to get a play on – even (or maybe even more so) an amateur one. Over the years many people have given up their time, so that I can waltz in to an audition when a part surfaces that I think I can manage and have a go at getting the part. Over the years I have worked with a number of different community theate groups and it is always great to land a part and be a part of a production.
Sure, I turn up for rehearsals and learn my lines and my blocking, but there are a whole load of other people behind the scenes who help to get the play from a gleam in a director’s eye to a production in front of a paying audience.
So I said, yes I would do it. For the first time in decades, I would give up around two hours a month to help support a community activity that I value. How hard could it be? As an ordinary member I could vote on stuff, make the odd suggestion and help deliver the following year’s program of shows.
There were twelve people at that first meeting. The first task was to elect the four office bearers. I am not sure quite how this happened, but I ended up as treasurer.
This always happens. I have a fatal weakness which is the social equivalent of feeling the need to speak when the other person has run out of things to say, just to fill the silence. There is a void, and somehow I feel responsible for filling it.
Halfway through the year, though, I was feeling very very frustrated. The main issue with the group is that the theatre venue that they used is now so expensive, that it makes running any show a huge financial risk, with the result that a lot of bickering goes on about staging any productions at all. Plus there was a huge problem in changing over the signatories on the cheque books, which meant that I could not pay any invoices. I got really annoyed and eventually, six months into my tenure decided to resign. I felt immediately better.
Except I did not resign enough. Somehow I ended up still staying on as an ordinary member, as the committee membership declined. Numbers got so bad that I turned up at the AGM, because I felt bad about the outgoing president, who had bought cheese and crackers for the event. At least, I thought, I had seen the year through, they could not ask more than that.
I ended up being elected vice-president. No president was elected.
It is like I am caught in some awful Beckett farce. This committee is a quicksand where the more I struggle to get out of it, the further it sucks me in. And yet I seem to be the only person with this problem. At the last meeting, we numbered four.
This is why, I realise now as I type this while getting ready to attend another meeting -as Lucy looks at me with suspicion, knowing that I am going to leave the house tonight, which I must know by now is agains that rules- this is why I could never be a doctor in emergency medicine. Because at some point, when all ideas and energies have been exhausted, a doctor has to ‘call it’. After eighteen months of dreading every email which might suggest further engagement on the committee and resenting every minute of the good time I am throwing after bad, I find myself still pounding the chest shouting, DAMMIT DON’T YOU GIVE UP ON ME!
Hopefully, somewhere or sometime in the near future, we will see the flutter of an eyelid and hear a solitary beep. Then I will know that my job is done and I can leave my caretaking in the hands of someone younger and with slightly more energy and time than I have to fight the good fight and strike a deal with a venue, because it would be such a shame to see the group disband. They are the only community theatre group of its kind in Perth, and just for now, however half-heartedly, worth fighting for.