As I walked into the theater, two happy, little people greeted
me. "Hewo, Pofesso Howad Hill."
We had been running The Music Man productions all week, and I
could always expect a joyous greeting from two of the littlest
members of our cast. I played Professor Harold Hill, and they
always sought me out just to say "hi." Their little lisps made
their greeting all the more endearing.
I always took time to kneel down or pat their heads and call
them by name. I don't think they even knew my real name, but it
didn't matter. I had learned their names and their bright, shiny
faces were greeting enough.
As the musical production was coming to a close, our lines were
either learned, or it was too late, and we would have to fake it.
It was then, as the dress rehearsals and the production started,
that the best of the interaction between cast members began.
It was during this time that I thought of an article I had read
in Time magazine. It was a report on a study about happiness. The
researchers had spent years compiling statistics from people all
over the world. The interesting trend was that the those of us
living in industrialized countries were the least happy, while
those living in poorer countries were the happiest of all.
Once the statistics were compiled, the researchers then tried to
make sense of it all. The final conclusion they had drawn was that
what makes us happiest of all are the relationships we form. In
essence, the deeper the relationships, the more profoundly happy a
In the industrialized world in which we live, we find our lives
hectic and full of activities. Most relationships we form are
shallow and superficial. Gone are the days of sitting on the porch
and visiting with passers-by. Gone are the days of visiting with a
neighbor over the fence. And with our affluence, we no longer need
to intertwine our lives as a matter of survival.
But in other countries where people have a great dependency on
those around them, bonds flourish. Every person in the community
must work together so that all can survive. These close proximities
and interdependencies on one another make the relationships strong,
deep, and meaningful.
That is why I think the memories I have of the theatrical
productions I have been in are some of the happiest and most vivid
of my life. Even though the rehearsals last for only a few months,
the intensity of the work brings us into close contact one with
We learn about each others' idiosyncracies, personalities, and
interesting habits. We share our food with each other and enjoy
each others' recipes. We get to know each others' ups and downs.
But most importantly, we share time together and learn to depend on
each other. We learn to count on each other being where we are
supposed to be, when we are supposed to be, to deliver the lines we
count on, and to deal with the props for which we each are
It doesn't matter if a person's role is big or small. The
production can't move forward without everyone involved. The lead
may have the most lines, but his or her lines would fall flat if
the rest of the cast wasn't there.
There are, of course, many moments of frustration, but we learn
to forgive and forget, and move on. We gain insights into why each
of us is the way we are. We learn to appreciate each others'
talents and abilities, but most of all, we begin to see each other
as unique and interesting individuals.
I often have people ask me about the glitz and the lights and
the applause, and if that makes all the work worth it. My answer
would have to be a resounding "no." That all fades from memory
It is rather the time talking back stage, or after and before
rehearsal, the smiles and friendship, and the "Hewo Pofesso Howad
Hill" greetings that will linger with me forever.
Daris Howard is a syndicated columnist,
playwright, and author. He can be reached at