A theater feels like home to me. The physical building that is a theater: home. The seats in the house, the stage, the backstage area: home. Any theater, really, and I always have the feeling of comfort. I have had many homes in my lifetime, The Waterfront theatre in Ronenoke NC, the Gaiety Theatre and Smock Alley theatre in Dublin, The Pontiac Theatre in New York, First stage, Skylight, the REP, Off the Wall… but none compare to my first home, 5000 W. Mequon Rd. James Barr Auditorium. In middle school I would perform on that stage as Tevya and Liesl Von Trapp, in High School I was Liat, July, Twin 1. But coming back to that stage, to the smell and eager actors and crew members is what I remember most. This is home.
It is all so familiar. The smell of fresh-cut plywood as the set is being loaded in and installed onto the stage. The rainbow of paint splattered on the blue jeans of the scenic crew. The powerful whir of the pneumatic nail gun. The black walls, the black drapery, the black darkness. And the small pinpoint of light where the director’s prompt book is illuminated. Sights, sounds, smells bringing sense memories of the hundreds of other times I’ve walked into a theater just like this one, into this theatre.
All of these tangible things are here in this space for the purpose of creating the illusion of a completely different reality. All of it, every 2 x 4 piece of lumber, every stitch on every costume, every lamp burning in the lights overhead, every crisp clear decibel coming through the sound system … all of these tangible things work together to create an illusion. An illusion that we are in London in the late 1800s … that the little girl on the stage is in real danger of falling to her death as she teeters on a gutter 20 feet in the air. She’s really only 6 feet off the ground and in little danger of anything, but because of the skill used in putting all these pieces together, that “real” reality doesn’t intrude on our collective commitment to the reality we have imagined. It can be magical.
Whether I am directing, stage managing, or acting it thrills me to watch all those pieces come together. All the pieces, and all of the people. Each person doing their own task, all working together in different ways, with different skills, to collectively tell the same story. Most of all, I marvel at the quiet determination and passion for excellence that drives a small army of designers, stage managers, technicians, and production assistants to pull all the technical pieces together. They work for hours before the actors arrive, and are still there hours after the actors have left. They are, truly, the makers of theater magic.
If a show was being produced at any other theater, I am sure I would have felt the magic, experienced the sense memories, as I always do. But it isn’t at any other theater right now. It’s at this one. This theater, where I started. This theater, where Wayne taught me everything I know about stage managing, where the seniors “wowed” with their professionalism and big heart, where dear friend Erica lit up the stage with her vulnerable warmth and huge voice. And where “Mac” – Clare McCain , our Director – taught, inspired, and believed in us. This theater, filled with so many happy memories of theatrical brilliance, filled with the spirit and positive energy of all the shows and all the actors and all the theater artists who have ever walked this stage … this theater truly is home.
And it is very good to be back.