Monday, April 14, 2014


Dim lighting reveals the unique textures of exposed brick wall, old props and other hints to the past and faded memories of forgotten performances. Musty glimpses of unseen grandeur, seem to be suspended in time from the high-reaching ceiling, in this beautiful, historic theater. A few unmatched chairs line the edge of the open area. Here, behind-the-scenes where only a few see what really goes on, to make a play production happen, and where cast members congregate.

The whole bunch of them gather. The minor players and the major characters. And both of them need the other.

The director stands in the center. He is a good man. A seasoned actor, gifted, yet humble. A ragged circle is formed. Everyone pushes in close and a hush falls over the group, as he begins to speak. There is a recap of yesterday's performance. He highlights what was great, what needs to be modified, and then he opens the discussion to others and their thoughts on what would make today's performance, the best yet.

There was not a hint of condemnation in his voice. He talks about little-big things, like a longer pause to bring closure to a scene or allowing full rests, to allow the audience to respond with laughter. Simple words of encouragement, useful tips and information were offered, that would make the experience better for those who would come to see them perform and to draw the team closer.

They aren't playacting right now.

This moment, represents long hours spent. Accumulated over weeks and now the months that have preceded. It demonstrates how a common goal has united them. What began as a random group of forty children and twenty seven adults, and one dog, has now become an integrated cast of talent for the beloved play, "Annie."

Soon the theater lights would be lowered, the sound of fine-tuned strings and keys will rise from the tiny orchestra pit to set the tone for each scene. Stage lighting will flood the space where the players in the production will become someone else, while bringing who only they can be, to the character.

They draw in the audience by their heart-strings, to engage them in the story of the vibrant, bouncy, perpetually optimistic, orphan girl named Annie who lives in New York City in the 1930s.

And this little nine year old 'Annie," brings the character Annie, alive.

The darling girl with the beautiful voice, brings her energy to the theater that is absorbed by the audience who fill the rows of red velvet covered seats. From backstage, I can hear the audience "ooh" and "aahh," offers of polite applause and bursts of laughter, until the final scenes when the orchestra music cues building anticipation and excitement that the final moments are being played out before them.

Wrong or right, there is one who just steals the show.

Her stage name is "Sandy."

She just comes out, playing her most adorable self. Sweet, obedient, hoping for a small reward.

And she goes and kind of steals the show.

She is actually named Nestle. As in chocolate.

She doesn't really get what it's all about.

She hardly notices the details of the pieces that make up the set, the intricacy of the costumes. The lights and sounds and the people sitting in the orchestra pit with their glasses sitting on the tip of their noses didn't mean a thing to her. Every solo, every chorus, and the crescendo that brings your heart crashing to the climax of the play. She isn't rooting for the heroin and or wanting to boo the antagonist. Her best performances don't impress her any more than her not-so-good performances.

She doesn't long to feel the heat of stage lighting, to hit each mark, or to be the character.

She is just, who only she can be.


An English yellow Labrador retriever.

And she seems pleased to hang out with all those who delivered every line and were able to bask in the glow of a big finish or that moment when they know -- just know -- that the audience was theirs. In fact I think she preferred the little known orphans who hung out and fell asleep through the long parts that they had to wait through.

It wasn't her dream to be center-stage.

But she was there and was one of the stars. Plus she brought a bit of comic relief to the whole show.

Hanging out with the dog-star reminds me that behind-the-scenes, is where much of the center-stage-stuff happens.

The places that are not as glamorous. Where there are few hints to the rich architecture of the building, which was erected in 1929, right before the Great Depression, the time period in which this play is set.

Not a single intricately designed panel or wall mural. Not one column woven with gold ornamental molding to be found.

No marquee with bright, blinking, flashing lights.

But the heartbeat of center stage, comes out of a lot of behind-the scenes moments.

Every piece and part is vital to the whole.

Hanging out backstage was a sweet reminder that when everyone serves with the gifts they have been given, amazing things happen. A group of people gathered here, who understood this and became a part of the bigger plan, which fueled their level of performance as a team. Not for individual glory, but for the greater good of the whole group.

The Directors and performers all seemed to understand this well.... we all need each other.

And Nestle-girl was satisfied with a little praise and a few dog treats.


Post a Comment

I love hearing from you! Thank you for stopping by.

© Rhonda Quaney