Tag Archives: performing

The Transformative Power of Theatre – A Patron’s Perspective

“To enter a theatre for a performance is to be inducted into a magical space, to be ushered into the sacred arena of the imagination.”
– Simon Callow

I had to take some time to share an audience member’s thoughts after watching our latest performance of Proof by David Auburn at our little theatre in Ashe County, North Carolina.  If you’ve ever been a part of the theatre in any fashion — or even if you’ve ever found yourself sitting in an audience — these words are for you.  We are all storytellers, each and every one of us.

Thank you, David, for these magical words.

Ashe County Little Theatre’s Proof by David Auburn / Photo by: Bobbi Jo Scott

ASHE COUNTY LITTLE THEATER
by David Desautels

Since seeing the most excellent latest production by the Ashe County Little Theater on opening night this past Friday, I’ve been wondering about why I like going to plays so much.

Growing up in our household money was scarce. But we always had books. And books meant travel, if only in my mind.

My mother and I journeyed down the Mighty Mississippi River visiting Tom Sawyer and even stopping by Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A bout of strep throat and missing school for a week set me on my journey without even leaving my Jefferson bedroom.

I remember begging Mom to read “just one more chapter” and next thing you know I was in Missouri with an eye on Tom conning his buddies into whitewashing a fence.

She read to me after a long day at work and fixing dinner for the remaining four (of seven) kids. She read till she could hardly talk, her voice barely above a whisper at times.

Her reading to me was the highlight of my day. That is until she suggested that, while she was gone, I might pick up the book myself.

I did. And that led to a lifetime of adventure. Marco Polo took me along with him from Italy to China. George Washington let me take a swing at the cherry tree with his axe. Zane Grey allowed me to shoot up the Old West.

Helen Keller won me over with her triumph over tragedy. Abe Lincoln encouraged me to keep the kerosene lantern burning. And George Washington Carver elevated the lowly peanut to a place of honor practically making it an obligation to eat peanut butter.

Louis Pasteur made milk drinkable. Henry Mortin Stanley’s “Dr. Livingston I presume” made Africa accessible. And Thomas Edison made discoveries believable.

Which leads me back to the Ashe County Little Theater by way of The Parkway Theatre. A 6th grade outing there to see Gone With the Wind made Margaret Mitchell’s classic come to life in full color.

Friday night at the play I, once again, traveled to another place. I do it with books, movies and, especially, plays. For two hours my normal world stands still and I am in an alternate reality.

I BECAME THE CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM.

Over the years, our Little Theater has taken me places.
All with ordinary people putting in extraordinary performances.

I’ve seen a pharmacist become a lawyer. A teacher become a Steel Magnolia. A radio repairman become a radio announcer. A paralegal become a director.

Ordinary people–a shopkeeper conducting an orchestra, a local funny guy putting on a robe and being a judge, a kid becoming an Orphan. A barista becoming transformed into a math wiz.

Local people giving their talents as set designers, ticket takers, actors, sound and lighting wizards.

And, to my knowledge, not a single one of them makes a penny for their efforts.

But that’s not to say they don’t get paid. Their currency is the applause they receive from folks like me who, for a couple of hours, travel the world without ever leaving our precious county.

Thanks Ashe County Little Theater for your decades of tireless and selfless giving.

***

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”
– Chinese Proverb

 

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Off to See the Wizard

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“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”
– Glinda, the Good Witch of the North

Well.  I guess my answer is, “both.”

A few weeks ago, I was asked to play Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, for the Autumn at Oz festival in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, coming up this weekend, October 5-6.  And then, a few days later, I was asked if I could also double as the Wicked Witch for a few shifts.

Um.  Ok?

At first, I had no clue what any of this meant.  I mean, yeah, I had heard about this festival way up on top of the mountain near where I work.  But I really had no idea what all the hoopla was about.  Now, I was pretty sure that I could pull off the split personality required to be able to switch between good and evil (heck, I do that all the time in my daily life…easy peasy…), but what did all of this really mean?  This isn’t your typical ‘play’ that I’m used to performing in.  No weeks and weeks of rehearsals, no constant run-throughs, not even a stage.  What was this festival all about?  I didn’t have a clue.

Well, now I do.

In my two-week crash course in learning about the festival, I have come to find out that this is actually kind of a big deal.  Back in the festival’s heyday (early 1970s), this thing was evidently a sight to behold.  The land of Oz has been recreated high atop a mountain in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, complete with a yellow brick road, Dorothy’s house (pre- and post-tornado), the Emerald City, and everything in between.  There were even ‘balloon rides’ like Dorothy takes at the end of the movie (which, for this ski-resort area was a modified ski lift).  Unfortunately, the combination of the owner’s death just prior to the park’s grand opening, and a mysterious fire only five years later, worked together to shut the park down in 1980.   (Click here to read an article that I’m not too crazy about, but that does give some back story.)  In 1993, the park re-opened, on a much smaller scale, and is now open to the public only one weekend a year with the name, “Autumn at Oz.”

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And boy, is it popular!

This year, 6,000 tickets have been sold.  SIX THOUSAND TICKETS!  And they are completely sold out.  Apparently this is something you want to get tickets for well in advance.  (Click here to ‘like’ Autumn at Oz on Facebook and stay up-to-date with the information for next year if you’re interested in taking your own little stroll down the yellow brick road!)

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As for my part in it – well, this is how it works.

On Friday, I get to leave work early (woot! woot!) and travel up to Beech Mountain.  A few of us will have a photo shoot for promotional purposes (upcoming brochures and whatnot).  For this, I’m Glinda.  (Yay! Somebody has to make me all purty and whatnot.)  Then, we all get settled into our condo for the weekend.  Saturday and Sunday, I will be the wicked witch working in 2 hours on/1 hour off shifts.  There are three of us (shhhh….don’t tell the kiddos that….) that alternate shifts as the wicked witch.  There are two places along the yellow brick road where the witch is situated – her ‘lair’ and the poppy field – so two of us are working at all times, with one getting an hour break.

Now, this is the part that scares me.

As an actress, improv has never really been my ‘thing’.  Give me a script, and I can be whoever you want me to be.  But tell me to do stuff on my own, and I freeze.  Well, guess what Saturday and Sunday is?  Improv.  Lots and lots and lots of it.  For two hours at a time, I have to “be” the wicked witch.  No script, no lines, no blocking.  Just be the witch.  Now, everyone who knows me well will probably say that shouldn’t be a problem for me.  I mean, come on.  Helllo?  It’s Melissa.  Mean Ol’ Witch?  Duhhhh.  Perfect casting.  But nonetheless, here I am.  Terrified.  What if I mess up?   What if I’m not scary enough?  What if I’m too scary?  What if a kid kicks me?  (Hey – it has happened in the past, so I hear.)

Well, I guess I just have to put my big-girl witchy britches on and just wait and see.

So, as of Sunday night, the public festival is over.  But not for us.  A full cast of characters (just one each this time) will remain behind and do two performances on Monday for a few school groups that will be coming through in two waves.

Now we’re talking.

This is when I’m Glinda.  And this is when I have a script.  Woohoo!  A script!  The kids will come through the park, stopping at the places along the yellow brick road that Dorothy stops at in the movie and the scenes will be reenacted for them.  How cool is that!?  After a few groups come through and our two performances are complete, there will be one more on-site photo shoot, and then it’s time to click our heels and head home.

Holy crap, I’m excited! 🙂

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Check back here for a complete update when I get back.  Can’t wait to post pics of myself in all this garb (oh yeah, selfies shall abound…) and experience something like I’ve never experienced before.  New friends, new experiences, new memories….this is the stuff life is made of.

It’s time to head to Oz!

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***

“What a world, what a world!”
– Wicked Witch of the West