On a wonderful spring afternoon in 1972 I entered the doors of the local high school theater auditorium and sat down on the back row. For most people this would not be a matter of importance at all. But for me…well, maybe I’d better give you a few more details.
We moved back to Kinston, N.C. when I was entering the ninth grade. We lived down the street from the town’s high school. But my parents investigated the Christian school that was a little further out in the country and decided that was a good place for me to attend. I guess I really didn’t care which school I was going to attend. This was the one that my uncle was the principal of and my aunt would be my English teacher and my mom would teach there. I might have felt both fortunate and trapped! Looking back, all I really remember is that I made a few good friends, but never really felt like I fit in anywhere until I went to college.
I knew many of the students at the public school, well that really isn’t true. I wanted to know many of those students. I saw them in church and sometimes in the plays the high school would produce. Somehow, it isn’t a big surprise that I would get up enough courage to walk into this auditorium and plop myself down in a seat and just watch.
It was wonderful.
I watched the students running lines. I watched the director giving staging directions. I watched the choreography rehearsal and dreamed. Dreamed that I was the one up there getting all that instruction.
Somehow, I managed to sneak in and out of those rehearsals for days. I couldn’t wait for opening night!
I bought a seat a few rows away from the orchestra, center stage. I was there and in my seat almost as soon as the doors opened. I can almost hear it now.
One by one each instrument began their individual process of tuning. Each made their sounds and then slightly adjusted the pitch until it was exactly in tune. The piano or drum banged out different notes and then played scales as they limbered up their fingers. This continued for about ten or fifteen minutes. All around me other audience members found their seats and the room began to expand with an aura of excitement. I sat memorized. I looked up at the lights and studied the way they were configured. I looked at the orchestra members. I devoured the play program. I read all the bios and almost memorized what song would come first and all the synopsis of scenes.
Then, the conductor took his place and the overture began. Slowly, the lights began to dim. There is nothing more magical than that moment when the orchestra, audience and actors breathe together to create that unforgettable moment.
I count myself fortunate that I am lucky enough to have a vivid imagination. I believe it is one of the wonderful gifts God gave me when I was created, but also, my mom instilled in me a love of reading. Reading, helps expand a imagination.
That imagination helped theater become a haven for me. Theater, done right, can become a shelter. It is place where dreamers aren’t scoffed and the “uncool” aren’t picked on. It is a place where all talents (both artistic, mathematical and technical) come together as one.
Was my imagination stretched by theater? Yes. And it continues to be every day.
Day by day our culture is wanting things to come to them instead of having to leave their comfy home. Live streaming of events. Uber eats instead of going out.
Please don’t ever replace live theater. The world would be a little less wonderful without all the good that comes from this kind of imagination.
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”
― L.M. Montgomery,