Why Theatre Matters To Us: Keith Gatchel

Ghostlight is sharing our personal stories of why theatre is so important to us and, in turn, to others. We hope you'll feel inspired to support the arts now and forever more.

Keith Gatchel, Technical Director, Ensemble Member

 Keith Gatchel working the booth for Ghostlight's 2017 production of Gingerbread Grindhouse.

Keith Gatchel working the booth for Ghostlight's 2017 production of Gingerbread Grindhouse.

"'What is it that you do?' my childhood friend asked me a few months into Freshman year of high school. My dad had moved my brother and me to a new, separate school, and this was one of the few chances we had to hang out anymore.

"Everyone had asked me that since the year started, to see what I was going to do to make friends. I had not put much thought into this. I wasn't an introverted child, but I liked my alone time.

"People suggested theatre to me, because I've always had an active imagination. But, it always seemed like it was (I thought) too girly and that I would (I thought) get made fun of.

"But on TV I always liked shots of the control booth, and they were always punching buttons. So, one day, I showed up to my high school scene shop after school, around 3:20 p.m. A little after 4 p.m., I left. The next day, the same. After a few more times, I stopped showing up – all that set- building was hard work.

"The fall play came and went. My dad and I saw it and walked out at intermission. High school theatre, on average, tends not to impress. But, still, they all seemed to be having a lot of fun. Where else do you get to dress up, be silly, and fulfill an elective. But, it seemed too late to go back. They'd remember me quitting. Everyone had already made their friends and wouldn't take any more (I thought).

"Christmas break came and went.

"I don't remember why I was in the cafeteria several hours after school, but one of the guys from the scene shop and I started making small talk. He suggested that I come help with the show, moving sets. It was all I needed to get back in.

"I spent that weekend, then weekday evenings, in tech rehearsal and then the following weekend working the show. I felt accepted there, even though I didn't know anyone.

"That weekend ended last, but I wanted more.

"The next day I showed up back to the scene shop, and, as I'm sure you can predict: I skipped out after an hour. The next day, the same. By the next day, the scene shop teacher finally called me out: 'Keith, if you're going to do something, do it.'

"I thought to myself at that moment, 'What if this is the thing I don't quit? What if I just kept doing this until I can't anymore?'

"That moment will be 20 years ago in January. I haven't quit yet.

"I've asked myself often since if the only reason I've stayed in theatre is because of my dumb, stubborn, self. That's partially true. But, theatre distracts you while you socialize. It gives you a project two of you can work together on while you get to know each other. You forget your weird awkward self and relax, with a community that's made for putting yourself out there. You build friendships while you build a show.

"Three and half years later, I was off to college, ready to start on my BFA in technical theatre. I didn't worry about making friends at that point. I just waited for classes to start."

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