I’m going to be 30 in a month. I’m not quite at the point where I’m apoplectic about that, but I’m getting there. And it’s safe to say that I’m not where I imagined I’d be when I got out of college. Don’t get me wrong – my life’s not so bad. I’ve got a nice place to live, a nice vehicle, several friends, and a job that doesn’t make me want to run out into traffic on I-95. But it’s not what I imagined for myself a decade ago.

Earlier in the year I had found out that there would be a huge gala celebration for Stagedoor Manor‘s 30th anniversary on Sunday, July 24. (As a refresher, I spent 8 summers at Stagedoor – 1984 through 1991 – where my passions for acting and stage management were allowed to spiral out of control.) For a brief moment, I considered not going. I wanted to go, but I was apprehensive about how I would be viewed, what with the not working in the ‘business’ any more. Well, if you read this space, you know how I overanalyze everything, so this should really be no great shock. After talking it out with my friend Lee, I came to the inevitable conclusion that I was going to go – I had kicked myself for missing the last big Stagedoor event, and, apprehensive or not, there was no way I was missing this.

30annivbadge.jpgStagedoor, as it turns out, is the great equalizer. Naturally, I wasn’t the only person in the room to find his way into a different line of work. And yes, there were genuine bonafide celebrities present, of the “hey, you’re on that sitcom” or “I really loved your last movie” variety. But none of that mattered. Because for one day, the celebrities weren’t celebrities – they were just alumni, same as everyone else. No one cared if you weren’t still ‘in the biz’. And I wasn’t “M-D November, failed stage manager turned scholarship administrator”. I was “M-D November, everyone’s go-to guy” again. Some of those genuine celebrities were genuinely happy to see me, which felt really good (almost to the point of embarassing – but not quite). I saw people I haven’t seen in ages – in some cases, 20 years. I laughed at old stories and running gags, and reminisced about the highly age-inappropriate shows we did as kids – the good, the bad, and the disastrous. And there were tears, since this celebration was tempered by the fact that we lost Carl Samuelson, one of Stagedoor’s owners (and a fatherly figure if there ever was one) last year.

After the celebration at Kutshers (“come for the golf, stay for the bingo”), everyone went back to camp. We had the run of the place, since the current campers were…I dunno – let’s say they were at a movie. I finally had a chance to see the new theater, which replaced The Barn after it burned down in 1991. (It’s a beautiful facility – everything’s state of the art. Part of me wants to say that the kids today don’t know how good they have it…but part of me would rather have the old Barn back.) We ate in the dining hall, wandered through the theaters, and snuck into our old sleeping rooms, just to see what had changed – and what hadn’t. And then there was the singalong. I don’t know how many people were packed around the piano in the Playhouse that night, or how long it had been since we’d sung the lyrics and the harmonies that used to make up our everyday lives at Stagedoor. (14 years for me, but who’s counting?) And yet, we remembered every lyric (and who had what solo), and the harmonies were all there, and the choreography was still fresh in our minds, as though time had somehow folded in on itself.

And then, all too soon, the day was over, people were saying their goodbyes and getting in their cars, and we all had to return to ‘real life’. The lousy thing about huge gatherings like this one is that you only get a few moments each to see a huge number of people, and you wish time weren’t a factor so you could really talk to everyone. And I’m not going to lie, it was a tough day to get though – I’ve talked about Jack Romano in this space before, so I’m not going to rehash that now (mainly because I won’t make it to the end of the post without getting vechlempt)…but he was everywhere. Thank God I was around friends who feel the same way I do, that’s all I”m going to say.

It’s telling that the day ended in almost traditional “M-D at Stagedoor” fashion – two lovely young ladies, both of whom had attended Stagedoor after I had finished college, needed a ride back to the NYC area for reasons way too complex to go into here. And since I had to go back to the city to drop some people off, well, the more the merrier. We ended up sharing war stories about various productions, I told them a little more about Jack…it was an interesting ride back to the city, and it was gratifying to know that, even if it’s not exactly the same, the Stagedoor Experience goes on.

Pictures from the event – mine and others – have been posted to Flickr. I just want to take a moment to thank Debra & Cindy Samuelson, David Quinn, and Konnie Kittrell for putting the whole event together; Carl & Elsie Samuelson and Jack Romano for putting together something that endures; and Michael Larsen for…well, just for being Michael Larsen. And to everyone I talked to that Sunday afternoon…we cannot wait for the 40th anniversary to do this again.