This past June marked my fourth year in Bakersfield. I moved here from San Diego after sleeping on an old futon in my parents’ living room for 7 months. I'd left behind a horrible marriage and was ready to start a new life. Bakersfield seemed like the logical place to go.
Why? That was pretty much everyone's question. No one understood, least of all my parents or my former employers. I was leaving behind a good paying job, friends, my family and San Diego for Bakersfield? Why not L.A. or Chicago (where I had job offers)? Why not stay in San Diego? What was there to do in Bakersfield?
The main draw for me was that I'd be living with my best friend from high school. We'd be able to do all the things I missed out on doing before. Moving in with her and her roommate was instant family, instant friends. It was living in my own space with two girls I thought the world of and being included in theirs. It was late night Rusty's delivery, Ouji board nights, eating out almost every night and always having a friend to talk to. Four years ago, Bakersfield was my place to start over. It was small enough that I didn't feel like I would be swallowed whole and I liked the proximity to L.A and San Diego. Everyone was so friendly and I felt like I belonged here for some reason. I moved here wide-eyed and ready for new beginnings and second chances. Bakersfield ended up being where I found me again.
If you ask me on a bad day what I think of Bakersfield, I'll probably correct you and call it Bakers-Hell. I might roll my eyes (I hear I do that sometimes) and I'll probably tell you I wish we lived somewhere else. I miss San Diego - the Zoo, Balboa Park, the ocean and downtown. I miss The Old Globe theatre, the museums and La Jolla. Sometimes I wish we could just pick up and move to Chicago (where I lived for 3 years) just to be near all the museums, Navy Pier, Michigan Ave., the great architecture and all of those great theatres. Other times, I wish Daniels work would relocate us to Houston just so we could have the adventure of being in a new place and closer proximity to our friends in Austin and surrounding areas. But that's just on a bad day. I don't really think Bakersfield is hell. As much as we daydream about leaving, we've had some good times here.... we’ve made a home, good friends and great memories. There are times when I look around and wonder why we're here...but other times where I'm grateful I made the sudden decision to start over here. My life would be so different if I'd chosen the other options.
I think when we finally do leave, that I will miss the Spotlight Theatre the most. I realized it today when I was eating in the cafe.... so many of the great things that have happened to me in the past four years have happened because of that place.
Four years ago, I walked nervously into the lobby of the Spotlight for my first audition in gosh, eight years! It was for a reader’s theatre version of Letters Home and I got the part of Sylvia Plath. We only had one performance and only about five people (other than my parents, Nana and my roommates) showed, but it felt so good to feel the lights again. I was so happy to be a part of a production after so long that I cried when I got off stage. It was a good night...that has led to my involvement in many other productions.
A couple months later, I was cast in Commedia del Arte where I met Daniel. He and I became fast friends and before the run of the show had ended, we'd admitted to each other (and the rest of our cast) that we'd fallen in love. The show may not have been the best thing either of us has ever done, but it will always be my favorite because it's what brought us together...and we made some good friends (like Kevan Klawitter...who we miss dearly).
Last December I was asked by director Julie Jordan Scott to photograph a dress rehearsal for "The Miracle on 34th Street" at the Spotlight. That night was an amazing night for me because it was a way for me to be involved creatively in theatre even if I wasn't a part of the cast. I loved catching all the actors expressions and movement...I loved the feeling of holding my camera for more of a purpose than just photographing my dogs and flowers. After that night, I was hooked and volunteered myself for other productions... which led to me doing the same thing for "The Underpants", "The Thing About Men" and more recently "The History of Rock & Roll".
Every show I've been involved with there, no matter if I were audience member, photographer, cast or crew.... has given me friends, great memories and important lessons. I've become a stronger person directly and indirectly because of that place. I have pushed myself and learned a lot about who I am and what I am capable of. Four years ago, I never would have imagined myself as the photographer for the Spotlight. I would never have believed it if someone would tell me I'd fall in love with a cast member - and marry them! I walked into that lobby just wanting to be a part of something again - I guess I got my wish.
So... I guess wherever we end up someday, I can honestly say that Bakersfield has been good for me. Despite what people may say or believe, Bakersfield has a lot to offer if you know where to look...for me, it was in a little theatre on 19th street.