Butterflies begin to invade their stomachs as they step foot on the battered floor. The smell of painted wood fills their nose and the heat of the spotlight touches their skin like a tanning bed. A geyser of adrenaline shoots through their body increasing their heart rate to an all-time high. The show is about to start and the actors and actresses can’t help but feel nervous, except for one individual among them.
For Staff Sgt. Joshua Montambeault, stepping in front of a crowd is a soothing experience. By day he works in food safety for the 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, but by night he takes center stage.
“I’m really not somebody that likes being in crowds of people, but up on stage is my safe spot,” said Montambeault. “So when I go up there, it’s a sense of calm, it’s a sense of relaxation. Where other people will go get a massage or sit in a hot tub, for me that’s what going up on stage is like.”
Montambeault was a 15-year-old Army brat stationed in Germany when he discovered his love for the art. As a jock in high school with no control over his class schedule, he was placed in a drama class.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I fell in love with the kind of people in theater and I fell in love with the way the theater director brought the best out of people.”
After the events of 9/11 Montambeault decided to join the Air Force, but his love for the stage never dissipated. He now invests hundreds of hours into theater. At one point, he was involved in four shows at once. Whether he’s prepping, starring in, or auditioning for a show, the actor stays busy.
“I realized theater was not only fun, it was a lot of work – it was a challenge,” he said. “That work appealed to me.”
For Montambeault, shedding blood, sweat, and tears provides him with great reward.
“That moment when you get up on stage, you get into the character, the audience is loving it and you get that initial laughter, it’s better than any drug,” he said. “For whatever amount of time I’ve got them, they’re not worried about whatever it was they were worried about when they came in. They are feeling what we want them to feel. It’s an escape.”
Not only does theater allow the people watching to escape their everyday stressors, but Montambeault benefits from it too.
“People who are stressed out get sick more, they get injured more and they’re much more likely to make mistakes,” he said. “Theater de-stresses me. While there is stress that goes with it, it is the kind of stress that makes you stronger. It makes you more passionate, it makes you more focused, and it allows me to give back to the community.”
Although the stage may not seem like a dangerous place, incidents can happen. During one of his shows, the actor suffered a serious injury.
“While I was coming out on stage, it was very dark and there was a lot of smoke from the smoke machine. While not paying attention to where I was going and being more concerned with getting out on stage, I slammed my head into a post. Then I went on and performed for the rest of the show.”
This wasn’t the first time Montambeault took a hit to the head. In his last job on the flightline, he suffered from many head-on collisions.
“The human body can only take so many concussions before it gets injured,” said Montambeault. “The brain plasticity, which is something they talk about at the traumatic brain injury clinic, is definitely helped by performing. By learning lines, by learning new things that you’ve never done before, you are working your mind and that makes your brain better. Working the brain is like any other muscle and it makes it sharper, faster, more accurate.”
After the head injury when people would ask him questions, Montambeault had to take a few minutes to answer them. Doing what he loves most has allowed him to rejuvenate.
“Acting is getting me back into being able to react quickly and thoughtfully,” he said.
After four years at Ramstein, Montambeault is getting ready to depart.
“I just hope that the interest in the program stays up. I hope that new people coming in find the program and get involved in the community. You make some of the best friends you can ever have in your life because you go through a lot with them.”
Montambeault’s next show will be “The Bremen Town Musicians: A Holiday Panto” at the Razzmatazz Theatre in the Ramstein Community Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Shows will be Dec 1, 2, 8, 9 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 3 and 10 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $5 for children 5-12, and $7 for ages 13 and over.