Tag Archives: Community Theater

The Vast Loneliness of Empty Places

14 Aug

The stage is bare; void of life, void of music, void of specifics. Only possibilities remain.

I don’t like it: the empty floor, its vital tape – marking the difference between perfection and burning feathers – gone, tossed away, unneeded. The blank backdrop, the spotlights hanging limply in their places, the costumes, lying flat and unamusing in a pile of unwashed glory.

I hear a whispered cue and spin around, my eyes huge with wonder, but it’s just the wind through the open door. Just a memory of things past, of a summer over, a season complete.

My heart aches with the emptiness of that which ought to be filled.

Hats at rest.

Rocking chairs need occupants.

Yes, it’s time to say goodbye to the theater for another year. Time to shut off the lights. To pull the curtains. To wave a final goodbye from the wings.

It’s time to retire my blue eye shadow. To throw my granny boots back into the closet. To eat my raisins rather than sing about them.

I remember other goodbyes. Other unworn costumes, empty playgrounds, bully pulpits void of bully preachers. I remember the wrongness of summer camp when the campers have all gone home, the echoes of laughter through the cabins, the mournful music of the swings set to rocking by the autumn winds.

Or what about empty hallways at the end of the school day, or rusting airplanes – their wheels held down by blackberry brambles – never again taking to the air, to the wild blue, to misty lands filled with musky scents and seductive offers? I have seen broken bicycles, torn sails, dusty dollhouses, unread books, that have set my heart yearning for their glory days.

Even empty flowerpots set my mind racing with the possibilities.

Possibilities. Potential. Undiscovered countries.

Who knew that I could do the things I have done? Who knows what lies ahead?

There will be more opportunities. More heart-wrenching conclusions. More empty hands, reaching for something to hold.

There will be more.

There will be.

I Join the Theater

19 May

We spent two hours this morning doing something I wasn’t sure I’d ever do again. We auditioned for a local Community Theater production this August here in Worthington, Minnesota.

I didn’t think I’d do this again for several reasons…many of which I wrote about below last summer and you can read about them as I’m reposting the the first post for you today. Another reason I didn’t think I’d do it again is that it’s a LOT of work…and time…to be in a production like this. HOWEVER…it’s worth it. It’s fun, it’s a great time to make new friends and deepen old friendships, and it’s something we can do all together as a family. Even five year-old Boo might be in on the action this year.
to top of our reasons for doing this again, it’s The Music Man…a favorite of our entire family. And so we’re diving in again. Stay tuned!!!

A fine day for an epiphany

Ok, so there are some things in life which sound better than they, in reality, are. Turkish Delight is one of these things. (I was brutally devastated when I first tasted real Turkish Delight, which I found in The Netherlands and bought with exceeding great joy. “WHAT?” I almost exclaimed outloud, trying hard to conceal my near-tears state of mind. “Edmund turned traitor for THIS?”) Lavender Ice Cream (from a cute little shop on Bainbridge Island, WA) is another. (“Ummm…WAY overrated!”) Asking Gretchen O’Donnell to dance and sing in a local theater version of Beauty and the Beast is another. And it’s a big one.

Now, I must admit, it’s possible that the powers that be who allowed me into this production never thought that seeing me dance was a good idea to begin with. I haven’t had the courage to ask them and I probably never will. But to…

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The Morning After the Previous Two Months

16 Aug

The whole family! Three angry French villagers...plus two nice Americans who came to the show!

So…our community theater production of Beauty and the Beast is over and now I hardly know what to do with myself. Just kidding! You mean I actually have energy and time to cook? I’m home in the evenings to hang with the kids? I don’t have to wake up each morning and go over the lyrics to my songs before I even get out of bed? Wow. I like normal life.

But, that being said, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m glad I did it. Colin is glad he did it, and Katie is thrilled that she did it. It’s been fun getting to know people we either didn’t know before or only knew at a distance. It’s been fun exercising our rusty skills, doing things we hadn’t done in years, if ever. Yes, it’s even been fun “dancing”…though I never thought I’d say that a few weeks ago. I actually found myself thinking, “What? I was worried about this?”

Ian and The Beast!


One of the joys of doing live performance is, of course, the crowd’s reaction. When the crowd is more responsive, it gives us, the performers, more energy. It was in the third performance (out of six) that I discovered this. The crowd laughed more, they clapped more, they radiated energy…and we were exponentially more “tuned in” to our performance when they showed us how much they enjoyed it. It was so fun! “They like us, they really like us!”

I’m only on stage for three songs, though I have backstage duties during the rest of the time. In fulfilling these duties I have learned several things. 1) After setting down Gaston’s chair (in the dark) exit stage LEFT…that way you don’t bump into the Silly Girls (who are also entering in the dark). 2) When your husband warns you that your flower cart – which has sat in the corner of the family room for years doing nothing – will never be the same again after its debut as a bookseller’s cart, BELIEVE HIM. (No, acting hasn’t gone to its head, but its wobbly wheel is going to force it into an early retirement.) 3) You must UNTIE BELLE’S LACES ALL THE WAY if you’re going to get it over her head and microphone pack in the two and a half minutes you have to redress her for the ballroom dancing scene. 4) Always have fingernail polish in your costume bag for those untimely runs in your black “Villager #2” stockings. 5) When you see your husband laughing until he cries – laughing like you haven’t seen him laugh in years – just sit back and enjoy it. This is good. This is part of our developing story. 6) If you’re going to buy a “prop cheese” from the actual grocery store, be sure that there’s a fridge you can keep it in between performances, otherwise it will look and smell more like Roquefurt than Colby Jack.

Beast, Menu, Lumiere and Belle!


One other thing I have learned: if your director asks you, the night before the first performance, to do the scream in the mob scene where everyone first sees the beast in the mirror, don’t underestimate the power of a good Faye Wray scream. I didn’t know I could scream. I have avoided screaming for many years. In fact, when I was in 4th grade and played the part of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, I had to ask another girl to do my death scream. I’m not a screamer, but I grimaced (in character) and obeyed when he asked me to. Well, apparently, now I have a reputation. I cannot tell you the number of people who have said, “You do a great scream!” Who knew?!

We had an evening off last week and Colin put on The Music Man (apparently we’re now all about the musicals) and an interesting thing happened while we watched. Lucy and Katie began to dance around the room, they were dramatic, they were expressive, they were acting. I think – and I’m only just now realizing this – that we’ve watched less television since all this has happened, too. There are other things to do…better things…things like dressing up in outfits that trip the wearer (sending them into fits of laughter), and wearing crazy hats, and singing at the top of our lungs while roasting hot dogs in the back yard.

Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth!


Another thing I enjoyed was the multi-generational aspect of community theater. It’s been fun to work with the “little girls” (“We aren’t ‘little,’” they insist). And it’s been fun to work with…well, okay, I’m like almost the oldest performer there, so nevermind about that contrast.) But it’s been especially fun to work with the high schoolers. I haven’t spent much time around high schoolers in the 23 years since I’ve graduated and there are certain things I forgot about. Energy. Shyness. Energy. Self-consciousness. Talent. And did I mention energy?

Lucy wouldn't get her picture taken with the Beast...but Belle was another story!


It’s funny, performing. You do things you never knew you could do. You gain confidence. You gain perspective. You gain friends. Yes, it’s possible that you gain aches and pains from the granny boots you have to wear that used to fit you before you had children but which decidedly DON’T fit you any more…but hey, those things are temporary. They’re forgettable. So forgettable that, it’s possible, I’d do something like this again someday. Especially if there’s screaming involved.

So now my boots have been tossed in the back of the closet where they belong, my Villager #2 tights with the red finger-nail polish “patches” have been thrown away, Lucy has her fake vegetables back because I no longer have to pretend to buy them, and all my kind friends no longer have to avoid answering the phone because I won’t be bugging them to watch Lucy and Ian during rehearsal and/or performances any more. (A HUGE thanks to everyone who was willing to take them for us!) Nor will I be bugging everyone I see to, “Get your tickets today!”
But there’s one thing that isn’t done: I’m still singing the songs in my head.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, I never hit that high note again. Not once.

QUESTION: Have you ever done community theater and what was your experience?

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