Curtain up! Light the lights! Broadway, Boothbay, Brunswick, Newcastle, and Damariscotta. All these communities and many more share something special: live theater.
There is magic that happens on stage. Each theatrical performance is created literally on the spot. It happens when and where it is performed and it exists only for that moment.
It does not exist to be paused or pulled out at a whim. You cannot rewind it-the theater is tangible and fragile. It requires a living person before a living audience; it relies on the absolute necessity of that physical audience.
A stage production can never be the same twice. The audience will not be the same. The actors may have stubbed a toe, or had a death in the family, or a little too much something or other before hitting the boards. The variables are infinite. That makes the real magic happen. No matter what might have gone before, the lights go down, the lights come up and the play begins.
Even the words spoken will vary. Sometimes a little, sometimes more than the author would like.
In one memorable local play, an actor was waiting in the wings. As he stood waiting and … waiting… for his cue he realized that about ten pages of important dialogue had been skipped.
A breath later and he was on the stage inventing an exposition that covered the many gaps.
This was not something that he could ever do again in the same way and neither he nor the other actors remembered exactly how he worked it all out. The show went on with the audience none the wiser and the director wishing for a drink. A living actor before a living audience: you cannot replicate those moments.
Being on the stage is at once the most forgiving and unforgiving place a person can set a foot. The audience becomes invested the actors and will forgive a sign of humanity in a flub or two. The performer may be unforgiving of herself for the smallest variation.
A favorite moment of what I call " blanking" came for me in a production of Brigadoon. I had an exit just minutes before I had to do a big solo number. Every night a woman was there with water so I could have a swig before the big song. On opening night, I went back took my big gulp and "Surprise" it was not water. I was not a regular drinker and certainly not during a performance. The other actor was new to the stage and a nervous wreck and she never thought it might not work for me.
I never ate before a show and that gulp hit me like a ton of bricks. I reeled out onto the stage and got almost through my scene when I drew a total blank. I leaned over to my leading man, who knew something was wrong and whispered, "I have no idea what to do next." He gave me a shove, whispered, "SING" and I landed on my butt on the stage. By the time I stood up, I knew my song and belted that baby for all she was worth. I was horrified, no one but he and I knew what had happened, and the show went on.
This is the magic of all theater. It can change in a heartbeat. It can awaken in us a recollection of something past, a hope for something yet to come, and a flight of fancy: all in two hours' time.
Be part of the experience, not just an observer. Even when I am exhausted, I will find the motivation to show up in my theatre seat. When I know that the show is going to be a little less than excellent, if I have even the slightest interest in the show, I will buy a ticket and stay from curtain rise to curtain call. I have never regretted a minute.
We are the only species that creates theatre. Go find some for yourself. Take the kids and Granny or go alone or with your lover. Show up and support local shows. They are less pricey (or should be) than out of town adventures and you will have an extra pleasure in seeing faces you know from the grocery store or school or office up there.
For someone on that stage this lyric from "Applause" will be the truth:
"When I was 8
I was in a school play
I’ll never forget it
I had one line to say
My big moment came, I said, “What ho, the prince!”
My sister applauded
I’ve been hooked ever since."
Be the person who cheers them on. You will enjoy yourself much more than if you sit and nitpick. Unless you are paid to be a critic, don't be one.
Summer theater season is here in Maine. One of the great pleasures of living here in "Vacationland" is that from Ogunquit to Calais there is entertainment to be found in all it's glory and absurdity. Go find some. Enjoy.
Note : Photos are from past productions by many groups in the Midcoast. For shows happening this summer, refer to your local papers and websites.