Finding a Family

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on March 10, 2011

Keith Panzarella’s past performance credits include INTO THE WOODS (Jack), WEST SIDE STORY, SWEENY TODD (Anthony) and THE MIRACLE WORKER (James Keller).  Keith is making his Roxy debut this season as Laertes in HAMLET, also appearing in BEA(U)TIFUL IN THE EXTREME, THE CIVIL WAR and ALMOST HEAVEN: SONGS OF JOHN DENVER.

I could hardly sit still on my trip last Sunday that started me in the little town of Malverne (Long Island, New York) and after a car ride, a plane ride, and another car ride, ended me in Clarksville, TN to start my 4 month stint at the Roxy Regional Theatre.  I was thrilled to find out in November that I would be working on four wonderful shows (such as Hamlet, which opens this tomorrow).  It’s every actor’s goal to have a job.  This didn’t make leaving my family any easier.

There’s a comfort in that little town of Malverne for me.  It’s where I spent most of my life and most of my family still resides (think Everybody Loves Raymond times 3… and funnier).  We partake in many events, large family dinners, and general intertwining of each other’s lives. Going from this to a land of strangers and, let’s be honest, a very different lifestyle than New York was a bit intimidating.  I had no idea what to expect.

What I have been met with is a new family.  One based in love of the work and supporting your fellow human being.  Moments after I was greeted at the airport I was invited to dinner at one of the cast houses.  I arrived that night to a warm welcome from the wonderful cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’, who had prepared an equally wonderful dinner of green beans, fish, bbq chicken, and something I had never had before, jambalaya.  This meal, accompanied by the kindness of the people I met from both their cast and the Hamlet cast, was enough to give anyone a taste of home.  And this was all before our first rehearsal.

That was a whole other trepidation.  When an actor, or anyone for that matter, comes into a new situation, working with new people, there’s an inevitable desire to prove yourself.  Without having met the director before, my mind drifted to the worst.  I need to do everything completely right or they’ll hate me and never want to work with me again.  I’d be back in Malverne that night!  A little dramatic, yes, but there’s a reason I’m in this profession I guess.  Within the first 5 seconds of stepping foot in the theatre all these thoughts vanished.  I was put at ease with a kind and sincere greeting from Tom and John that made me feel comfortable and ready to work, without the immense stress that I put on myself with those outlandish thoughts.

Then there was this Monday which was my birthday.  It was the first time I was away for that, which I didn’t mind.  It’s something that I’ll have to get used to hopefully with jobs in the future.  At lunch there were cupcakes and candles to be blown out.  Cast mates bought me lunch and dinner and everyone went above and beyond to make it a special day for me and it was.

When you’re in a situation doing regional theater, the people that you wake up with are the same people you’re working with all day and the same people you go home with afterwards.  You wake up and do it all again the next day.  Whether you like it or not, they become your family.  I’m just so lucky to have found such a devoted one so far away from that little town of Malverne.

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