Going Home Again by Laura Zabel, Knight National Advisory Council member – Knight Foundation

Going Home Again by Laura Zabel, Knight National Advisory Council member

Here’s a piece from Knight National Advisory Council member Laura Zabel that reminds all of us who are artists why we do what we do. The yin and yang of angst and energy that comes out of artistic endeavor. The piece was originally posted on HowlRound

Eight years. It’s been eight years since I was in a play. I’ve performed in some one-off shows, evenings of sketches, and done a whole lot of public speaking in that time, but it’s been eight years since I was in a fully realized play with a rehearsal process and a director. I didn’t really mean to take a hiatus and I never stopped thinking of myself as an actor or an artist. I took a job that turned into my life’s work. I had a baby. I’ve been happy, busy, creative, fulfilled. Eight years went by in the blink of an eye.

The gnaw came on slowly. It started to bother me more when people asked if I thought I’d ever “go back to theater?” I started peeking at audition postings every once in a while. I started telling my husband boring stories about how I “got a laugh” during a workshop or a conference keynote. I always said it will have to be the right show at the right time for it to work, for it to be worth the additional upheaval to my life. And then it was. The right show (Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora & Delia Ephron), the right director (Shanan Custer), and the right place (Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis.) I started saying “no” to things that conflicted, I found an audition piece and I signed up. And I got cast.

Holy crap. “Do I still know how to do this?” “What if I’m too rusty, too out of practice?” “What about all the people who only know me as ‘Springboard Laura’?” “What if the schedule is too much?” “What if I don’t like it any more?”

But the space, the people, and the show just opened up and I walked right in. Right back into a space where I’ve done half a dozen other shows, and where everything is reassuringly exactly the same. This is the sixty-second season at Theatre in the Round for a reason. They know how to make theater happen; there’s a process and it doesn’t change much. Rehearsal. Costume Fittings. Tech week. Production. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat it 500 times and you get to be the oldest theater in Minneapolis. There’s something so important and comforting to me that this process goes on every damn day and that this infrastructure exists.

And the people. The bond of the creative process, the silly goofing around that leads to trust and connection. The iteration of rehearsal. The focus of being in the rehearsal room. The joy of breaking open a scene and finding the heart of it. It hasn’t been so long that I’ve forgotten that not all casts are like this, I haven’t been gone so long that I don’t know that I am lucky to share a show with a cast of universally skilled, dedicated, fun and funny women. And a director who I trust so completely. Completely. I know it doesn’t always line up like this. But this time it did, and what a joy.

And the stuff. The costumes and the fake eyelashes and the heat of the lights and the lipstick-stained water bottle and the snap of the curtain. All these visceral memories stored up in my core that come rushing back. All the same.

And yet, I am different eight years later. This show means more and less to me than the work I did when I was a “professional” actor. I’m calmer about the things I don’t have any control over. I’m more focused on trying to enjoy each minute of the experience. More aware of how much work everyone else around me is putting in. I’m not worried about what’s next.


And the audience. I think my relationship with the audience has changed. This time around, I’m more attached to the practicality of our fleeting relationship. I’m more moved by the commitment each of these people has made to spend their precious time with us, I feel a different responsibility to them. I want them to feel something, to remember something, to talk to each other on the way home, to call their mom or their best friend afterwards. But mostly, I want them to laugh. To get caught up and enjoy themselves. For me, that laugh is a microcosm of the relationship, the community, the shared experience.

It turns out you can go home again. And sometimes that home is exactly like you remember it, only better. We have one more weekend of shows before we close this show, and I know I’ll be sad when it is done. But mostly I’m going to be grateful. Grateful for the people who made this into a show. Grateful for Theatre in the Round. Grateful for Nora and Delia Ephron. Grateful for my family. Grateful for laughter. Grateful for the homecoming.