Why We Do Theatre

Polly Hidalgo, a backstage OCP volunteer, recently brought her young cousin to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee here at OCP, her cousin's first live theatre production. The young girl's experience was a profound one. This is why we do theatre.

As a technical theatre major with a focus in stage management at UNO and a volunteer at the Omaha Community Playhouse as well as other venues around town, my life is full to over-flowing with theatre and that has become something that I tend to take for granted.

This was brought sharply into focus for me when I took my twelve year old cousin to see the opening night of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee earlier this season. She had never seen live theatre before. While I had to explain a few of the jokes to her, she really enjoyed the evening. I enjoyed watching her almost as much as I enjoyed watching the show.

When we arrived, having worked at OCP before, I pointed out a few things to her like where the live band sat, and I introduced her to some of the apprentices and John Gibilisco & Jim Othuse. We arrived a bit early and so we had the half hour wait for top of show but it gave us a chance to sit and talk and for me to give her an idea of what the theatre is like.

Once the music for the top of the show started, she was enthralled. She started out sitting back in her chair with her feet up on the railing in the balcony like a typical teenager, but as the show started, the feet went down. She was literally sitting on the edge of her seat leaning over the railing of the balcony. At intermission, she chattered nonstop about all of it: the actors, the lights, the set. Did I see this? Did I see that?

She couldn’t wait to get back to our seats for the top of Act Two. Other than asking me to explain a few things here and there, she did not speak the entire show. Her eyes were wide. She was absolutely fascinated. She cried a little at the I Love You Song.

But the part that touched me and most of the cast and crew happened afterwards. When the cast assembled in the lobby to greet the patrons, we stood in line with everyone else and I proudly introduced my cousin to all those people that I am proud to call my friends. This was the moment. My little chatterbox suddenly became mute. She was completely overwhelmed and burst into tears. She had no words for what she had just witnessed and for those who had given her this insight. I took her backstage for a quick tour and the scene continued. She managed to shake hands politely, and nod in response to the questions: “Did you enjoy it? Did you have a good time?” but she had no words and tears continued to roll.

That is why we do theatre. That reaction is it for us. Is theatre hard work? Do we love it? Do we have a passion for it? The answer for all of these questions is “Yes, absolutely.” And that reaction from that little girl, that is it for us. She is the reason why we do theatre.


Susan Baer Collins said...

What a fantastic tribute. I still have moments when I go to the theatre and I can't speak but can only let the tears flow. It's a wonderful and powerful art form. Thank you so much for writing!

Garima Pal said...