I have a confession. I sneak into the theater… a lot. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration… but not totally.

I am fortunate enough to serve as the Director, Earned Revenue at Arena Stage, overseeing our box office, events, rentals, gift shop, and concessions bar. It just so happens that I also live about a 10-minute walk from Arena Stage and have a small dog who loves visiting the office, so popping in and helping my team out when a show is about to start is an easy thing for me to do. But beyond just being easy, I love doing it.

Why? Because I almost always sneak into the theater at some point during the time I am there. It’s not uncommon to see me propped up in one of the little alcoves in the back of the Fichandler Stage (my personal favorite) or behind the orchestra section in the Kreeger Theater, ever-present tumbler of Diet Dr. Pepper in my hand, experiencing the sheer power of community that is invoked when the lights come down.

I mentioned earlier that the Fichandler is my favorite – simply because of it being in the round, and the fact that you can see other audience members enjoying the performance no matter where you are sitting. I know, I know, it’s cliché, but it’s joyful!

I recently did this on a Sunday afternoon performance of POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive and loved what I saw – several distinctive types of reactions! Some patrons were in hysterical laughter over the antics of the fictional (and never seen) president and the team of powerful women trying to clean up his mess; some were gasping with rapt horror over the shenanigans taking place in the hallowed halls of our government buildings; others were clutching friends sitting next to them; or in some cases, they were literally or figuratively clutching their pearls.

Admittedly, some have found it too crass for their taste … but you can’t win them all, right? (And let’s be real, my mother would have had a coronary had she heard me use a lot of the language in this show… maybe that’s why I love it so much!)

But this is precisely why I do what I do.

For those of us who work behind the scenes, making it possible to make the art happen, seeing it all come together and seeing nearly 700 people sitting in enjoyment together is a balm. It’s something that, three years ago, during some of the darkest days of the American theater, was impossible.

This level of joy aligns precisely with the joy I aim to have in life – pure, unadulterated, and undiluted. A pure serotonin boost. For two brisk hours, we go on a journey together and let the world slip away together, forgetting what’s going on outside the hallowed walls of the theater.

I know I’ll keep coming back, and being able to make a career in a field that is literally about bringing people of many different backgrounds and walks of life together to experience life – or something larger than life – together – is the gift of a lifetime.

Photo of Kelly McAndrew, Yesenia Iglesias, and Megan Hill in POTUS by Kian McKellar.