To Members of the Andy’s Community
December 28th, 2008
Remembering the beginning . . . connecting to the present.
One hot day during the second season of Andy’s Summer Playhouse, the Mason Town Hall resembled an active anthill. A steady stream of people of all ages moved in, out, and around the community building-turned-theatre. Some residents of Mason were still skeptical of the outsiders who were “putting on plays” on the tiny stage usually reserved for the Town Council members.
Andy’s Summer Playhouse had attracted the attention of some of the young people who lived in Mason, New Ipswich, and Greenville, but there were plenty of kids who had other plans for the summer –including working for the Town of Mason Youth Clean-Up Crew. These youngsters shared the space around Mason Center with children who were part of Andy’s Summer Playhouse. The kids on the MYCC would be raking, and mowing outside the hall, rather than acting and singing inside. One of the workers was Don Guay, an adolescent who had a reputation for being tough to deal with at home and at school.
On this particular day, rehearsals were in full swing for the first show of the season. Don put down his rake and peered through the window of the hall, as he had done several times before. We invited him in to get a closer look. To the best of our knowledge, he had never been on or around a stage. The next day, Don sauntered into the hall and took a seat in the back row of creaky wooden chairs. By the third day, he was helping us move scenery, and by the opening of that season’s first show, his name was on the program under Crew. Don returned the next summer to try his hand at performing. Like most kids who have ever been associated with Andy’s, Don was stimulated by the creative process and fortified by the community of fellow-thespians.
In the early days of Andy’s, the playhouse was all about Don Guay and kids like him. The experience of participating in theatre was new to many young people whose names appeared on the cast and crew lists of the first few seasons. The children, parents, local volunteers and the small, but highly energetic staff produced some pretty exciting theatre experiences “back in the day.” Today, just about everything at Andy’s is different – from demographic and geographic profiles of participants, to the professional level of design and performance on the stage. With all the changes, however, the goals and mission seem to have remained constant: to provide young people with creative experiences in theatre that promote connection, competence, and confidence. It is my hope that Andy’s will survive to continue providing this valuable opportunity to all those who “peer through the window.”
Co-founder with Bill Williams of Andy’s Summer Playhouse