This theater has seen better days. It's also seen worse ones.
The stage is small. There is barely a backstage, let alone dressing rooms. The walls are peeling. The ceiling looks like it has weathered a thousand storms, each one trying to come inside and seek shelter from its own rain. The ancient leather-covered seats squeal in protest when a person pries them from their upright positions. They are comfortable enough once you finally sit down. Of course, comfort is relative once you notice moisture gathering above your top lip.
Air conditioning is overrated, anyway.
And despite all the cracks, there is a moment, maybe you're sitting in the audience waiting for the curtain to rise on your kid's first-ever scripted performance, that you realize this is community theater at its finest. How is it possible not to love a place where your mailman, a neighborhood kid, and the friendly woman, whom you don't know but whose face you recognize from waiting in line behind her at the grocery-store meat counter, are stars?
That's how this “Hey, Lets Put On A Show,” stuff goes.
For me, it's hard not to love it.
I know because I've tried.
First it starts with the aforementioned “Hey, Lets Put On A Show,” and then it devolves into chaos and crying.
In our house, “Theater” has always gone hand-in-hand with “Drama.” And usually, after a bumpy ride, the pair tend to drive off a cliff like Thelma and Louise.
Shows need stories and props and costumes. They also need directors and sets and actors. You know, things my daughter, from an early age, had decided she could manage expertly.
But, no matter how talented I'd like to think my children are, the homemade versions of their endeavors tend to be long acting but nothing short of painful.
For me ...
Anyone lucky enough to be visiting during showtime.
Not to mention the poor soul who falls off the bed during the performance, which is how we know the curtain must close.
At least, that's usually how it goes.
For the price of admission – 10 imaginary dollars, which will be held up to the sunlight and pretendedly scrutinized for authenticity anyway -- audience members will receive an overly handled ticket to a never-ending performance featuring one actor, too many directors and something children shouldn't be playing with – you know … like fire.
It's breathtaking. Or at least breath-holding. … And that's why I banned the practice several years ago, though, admittedly, to little effect.
The show, as they say, must go on.
That's why, when I found out that our community theater willingly does this kind of thing – wrangle a few dozen teacup Thespians through the whole process – and for free – I signed her up.
Now, I know some people like community theater as much as they'd like to have a root canal. And the prospect of children's theater sounds like as much fun as having a mouthful of teeth pulled, but I can't tell you how amazed I was the first time we got through our first play without “drama.”
It called for a standing ovation. But more than putting our hands together, it also needs us to put our hands into our pockets.