Joe Ehrman-Dupre
Class of 2010

Playing for Others was always a very physical experience. Sitting or standing, slouched on the floor or jumping up and down, running or dancing; heck, even our listening was active! Every time I left a buddy event or committee meeting, I felt exhausted in the best way, and energized to do more.

This, to me, is the epitome of passion into action.

Of course action is more. For me it was the asks for donations that felt scary and got easier, the rehearsals (sometimes in cramped trailers!) for musicals whose youthful-leanings made me feel self-conscious at first, and then made me laugh out loud on a regular basis. It was the effort it sometimes took for me to keep up and interpret the cues and communication of my incredible buddies, including Ken, who, while relatively non-verbal, knew exactly how to make his feelings known (that smile!).

But before all that–the results, relationships, and expertly-crafted retreats (shout-out to the first ever teen exec committee! Woot woot!)–”action” is a sensation, a need, to move. It is, in my estimation, the itchy, exciting, moving-the-Earth-off-its-axis power of PFO in a nutshell. The kinetic power that comes when 10, 20, 100 individuals can’t help but turn their passion into SOMETHING undeniable, even when those “actions,” or planned steps, are still far out of reach.

The truth is, I’d forgotten what that feels like.

I spend a lot of my time feeling pretty sedentary. I have a desk job in the purest sense of that term. Out of the office, I’m constantly on the move–walking to and from my apartment (Philadelphia is a remarkably walkable city, one thing I love about it!), performing choralography with my brothers in song in the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (come see us perform!!), and chasing around my orange tabby Chip until he collapses on the floor for a belly rub–but that itchy excitement isn’t there.

I’ve felt inklings, particularly in my capacity as a board member for the Gay Men’s Chorus, and vice-chair of our development committee. In our meetings, I regularly feel a sense of communion around a common cause and the fiscal development of our fledgling arts non-profit (and employ plenty of PFO tips and tricks along the way), but none of the pure joy and almost involuntary action that PFO conjures up.

When Jen and Anna reached out about our 10th Anniversary and the chance to bring alumni back together for the celebration, I have to admit I was hesitant. PFO felt like a thing of the past for me in many ways. The program has changed so drastically–Remember the days of the promotional video committee? It’s best not to!–and the membership have moved on to so many different places and jobs and educational opportunities that the PFO of 10 years ago sometimes seems almost unrecognizable.

But then I started to think about it. And then I started to feel something.

I started to think about how many cheers would erupt throughout the weekend, and I could almost feel how hoarse my voice would be come time to fly back to Philly on Sunday. I started to think about how many hugs I’d get and give, and how affirming and warm they would feel. And I started to think about the dance parties and standing ovations and the walk down the buddy red carpet…and I started to feel what it might be like to be a part of PFO again.

Passion into action. Four years in PFO instilled in me that there are the defined steps of “action” needed to make things happen. But on a different plane, a visceral, physical, sensational plane, four years in PFO instilled in me a desire and need for the excitement and energy that passion can bring to the fore. It’s like muscle memory.

That is a uniquely PFO experience. It is, I think, in some ways a uniquely youthful experience that I don’t expect to find or easily create in the everyday of my “adult” life (I can’t say that with a straight face). But Jen, and this organization’s leaders, and the throngs of teens ready to join PFO and create change, and their buddies: they are passion embodied. They will never stop moving and shaking and dancing and hugging their way toward their goals. And that action will leave a lasting and immeasurably satisfying impact.

Now that I’m back, and I’ve chanted, and hugged, and I’m seeing all of you tonight, I’m more aware than ever of how PFO can feel. Thank you for reminding me.