Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Love of the Stage (quite literally)

Yeah, memories... leave comments about any edits or cuts you would make, this is not the final draft.

I love being on stages- that light woody smell; the darkness and comfort of the wings that in no way prepares you for the shock of the bright stage lights; the urgent, important-sounding whispers of the actors and crew; the feeling of invisibility that comes when running swiftly, noiselessly behind the back curtain. I guess I’ve always had an affinity for stages, ever since P.F. camp, where I participated in the talent show (even when I didn’t even have a good idea for what to do) every year, just for the thrill of being on a stage.

The stage at Crystal Theater has always been special to me because much of my “performing arts” experience and history has been there. One of my favorite things about stages are those unseen by the audience- or so we hope. As I was told time and time again, if you can see the audience, the audience can see you. (Maybe that’s why I tend to sit at the far ends of rows in an unfamiliar theater, trying vainly to catch a glimpse of what’s going on backstage.)

One really cool thing about Crystal Theater’s stage is that behind the very back black curtain, you can discover what seems like a whole other world. In the oppressive darkness, broken only by the weird green light of the creepy prop streetlights, you can see an assortment of comfy couches and chairs, but also a wide variety of scenery from other shows. There was also an old piano back there once, with a sinister note on top warning us kids not to even lay a finger on it or something bad would happen to us- I forget the exact wording. All I know is that the piano was under the protection of Arden, the old voice coach and opera fanatic who was generally considered to be slightly off her rocker. All the same, there’s a pleasantly spooky atmosphere about the place. Those of us who could see better than the rest would take advantage of the cover of darkness, jumping out from hidden places behind chairs or fake trees to scare the others during slow rehearsals. I can remember many occasions when I had cause to run through that place during scene changes, or just for the fun of it. Once, during a show consisting only of Motown songs, the curtain was parted a bit to reveal a white scrim, and we could see the colorful shadows of our counterparts dancing onstage.

If you run through there to the far side of the stage (stage left), you would come across a tiny dressing room, with a slanted ceiling, as if carved out from the eaves. The room is crowded with a few slightly dilapidated mirrors and hats needed for the particular show that week. There is a decrepit coat rack-type object with a few loose hangers on it, perhaps a costume or two. The black walls are cut into with graffiti detailing the initials and love interests of countless actors. Sometimes there are props strewn around carelessly, like the fake bottle of wine that had to be brought onstage by the Italian winemaker in the first play I was ever in.

I guess you could say I’m emotionally attached to the stage, on and off. For someone who lets other people do the talking a lot, I guess it’s nice to be the center of attention, or the unseen onlooker from the wings, getting into the rhythm of the story being told onstage. Being onstage, or off of it, gives you the chance to experience the hopes and trials of the lives of countless people in one body and one lifetime.

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