It is mid-November, which means two things: The first is my birthday, and the second is the Oceanside fall musical — both of which always happen at the same time every year.

I have been playing percussion for the Oceanside fall musical since it was still Rockland District High School.

While I was in high school (at RDHS) I was a cast member in the fall play every year, slowly working my way up from a background storybook character for “Into the Woods” in 1999, to a speaking role with an actual name, lines and solos for “West Side Story” in 2002.

During those four years I also assisted the pit band, quietly sneaking out from backstage down to the pit to add some auxiliary percussion — tambourine, triangle, cowbell, etc.

When I moved back to Rockland after attending college and working for two years in western Maine, I was quickly recruited for the pit band by my former band teacher. The play? “Narnia, the Musical.”

The two things I remember most about this experience are the singing beavers popping out of a small wooden dam on wheels, and the utter mass confusion (they were high school kids dressed as singing beavers, not actual singing beavers).

I have since learned that yes, every year is like this. It is always confusing, hectic, fun, frustrating and exhausting. It is also an incredibly rewarding experience.

My job as a member of the pit band is to play loudly enough for the audience to hear, but quietly enough to not overpower the actors on stage. I have to match my tempo to the performers and the other members of the band while following directions from the conductor and music director who are ten feet and several band members away from me. I also have to adjust to the sometimes daily changes in the music.

I have become an expert at distance lip-reading and deciphering hand signals and head nods.

Since that first play I have been a member of the pit band for almost every musical. I have even played drums for two community theater productions.

As the music director told me yesterday, there is a reason we all keep coming back. It is more than just a dedication to music. It is also a dedication to our community and the students. We take pride in helping create this experience.

Because it is live theater, it is also unpredictable. Every rehearsal and performance is a chance for the unknown to rear its ugly head.

Sometimes it is just illness, and sometimes it is something more.

This year the musical is “Frozen, Jr.”

At the start of November, I took out my drum set from storage and attended my first rehearsal. As I was setting up my equipment, I realized something smelled pretty terrible.

I chalked it up to the recent rain. My drums must have gotten moldy and just needed to air out a bit.

The next rehearsal I attended was on a weekend with just the other band members. I set up my drums and noticed something INSIDE the bass drum. I looked closer.

“Ummm…” I said. “You guys?!” The panic in my voice was clear. The rest of the band looked at me. “I think there’s a… mouse in my drum?”

The conductor accompanied me outside to examine the situation. We discovered I was wrong.

There were TWO dead mice in my drum!

I opened up the drum and disposed of the mice in an appropriate manner. I put some peppermint tea bags inside the drum to counteract the smell and ward off future invaders when it goes back into storage.

Tonight is opening night of the musical (Nov. 12). The high school students have worked hard to make this show come together in the middle of a pandemic. They have endured hours of rehearsals. They are singing, performing and emoting with masks on.

Like all Oceanside musicals, this one involves dozens of students. The Oceanside musicals continue to transcend traditional teenage labels and cliques, with students of all backgrounds and interests participating and performing.

Everything from the lighting to the sound, sets and the programs are done and made by the students.

I like to think that the little mouse couple will be looking down and giving their blessing.

“Frozen, Jr.” will be Nov. 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $6 for senior citizens and children. Masks are required.

Christine Simmonds is the Assistant Editor of The Courier-Gazette. She has lived in Knox County most of her life.