A Theatre Lament…of sorts

No poem this time, but just a reflection on my state of mind.  I just felt compelled to write, so here goes:

 

I miss the innocence of childhood. Now I suppose you could say that’s a pretty common statement but I especially mean it when I apply it to one of my first loves:  Theatre.

In the community where I grew up we had a local community theatre. All the shows there are done by volunteers and there is a great sense of family among those that participate.  A mix of plays and musicals would take stage every year and through its 40 year history the playhouse has grown and expanded into a great enterprise from which it once started.

I started myself when I was ten years old in a bit part in The Wizard of Oz. I quickly returned for stints as stage crew and lighting and I just couldn’t get enough.  I became known in school as the “theatre-kid”.  I would learn everything that anyone would teach me and I was a regular, dependable member that was called on for productions.  As I grew older I became eligible for roles on the stage that I had spent so many years supporting and my experience grew.  I even took the love of the theatre with me to college and declared it my major.  I returned back home with a reputation and skill set that I was happy to apply.

Now as a young adult I was afforded the opportunity to sit as a member of the Board of Directors that helped to run the theatre. I looked at this as a great honor for I would be a member of the body that helped make the theatre great and run on into the future.  The other members who had been on the board for quite some time had a bit of a different view.  They had been working on the business of the theatre so long that they had become focused on the numbers of everything.  Each show needed to make money.  We had a great deal of costs associated with running and maintaining the theatre and new issues were coming up every day.  Air conditioners would go out; windows would need replacing.  I understood these things but when it came to considering shows to put up for a new season, it became down to how the ticket sales and cost of making the show would affect the bottom line.  This stifled material that would be considered and soon it was popular musicals that had been rehashed for years, not only in our own theatre, but in others of the area.  Musical reviews became popular as it was easy to put together, costs were minimal, and tickets would sell.  Man would they sell.  Just put up a review of the best music of the 60’s and people would come out in droves.

Personalities began to emerge as conflicts came up and adults reverted back to their grade school selves and went at each other with no abandon. Unspoken alliances would form and soon you had to be in good with certain people in order to be heard there, much less get a show that was different or had more artistic value.

It was amid all this that the love I had carried for the stage became jaded. I no longer wanted to even go in the building.  Those that were once my teachers and mentors had become a force that preached a bottom line or “my way or the high way”.  It was a second home no more.

I soon found creative outlets in other places and put my talents and energy into bringing up a generation of those who had no training and needed a voice. It blessed me to pour into them and watch them excel and grow, but still a part of me was inconsolable.  After some time had passed an opportunity would bring me back in a small capacity.  A show being done by a friend who had also shared my frustration at the state of things at the theatre and he needed my help with crew work.  After some thought I agreed to help, bringing me back again into a building that had grown strange to me.  To say I’m excited would be untrue, but I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful that I can rediscover my love for the theatre where I had first discovered it – behind a black curtain.  As rehearsals loom and we look forward to the rise of the curtain once again, I can’t help but wonder if it will ever feel like it did when I was young., when all that mattered was how well the work was done and the applause of the audience.  But as with everything, all I can do is go step by step.

For me, it will begin with Act 1, Scene 1 of Jekyll and Hyde…

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