I was fifteen the first time I saw a real-live, honest-to-gosh stage show. That’s relatively old, I guess, especially for someone who would eventually go on to major in the subject, and then make that subject her (albeit nine-to-five, bow-to-the-man, and largely uncreative) livelihood. Oh, I’m sure I must have seen a show or two here or there before that—elementary school field trips, or class performances or what have you. But the moment I first remember walking into a black box theatre, slowing my steps as my heartbeat quickened and my breath caught in my chest, came when I was a high school sophomore. It was a college production of Midsummer, back in my hometown at Sweet Briar College‘s Babcock Fine Arts Center (that’s right, there’s a Babcock Theatre at the University of Utah, too, in the very same building that PTC is housed – ironic? Or, magical?) I even remember the bouquet of fresh paint and lumber from the scenery on stage before me. I also, very clearly, remember that after seeing that entire hilarious, beautiful and magical production I thought, “I want this to be part of my life from now on.”
Last week, PTC hosted Riverton Music’s annual Piano Sale. That means that our lobby was filled with the sounds of tuning from morning till evening, and graced from time to time with the tentative testing (and, more often, fervent serenade) from musicians young and old who hope to soon have a lovely new piano to call their own. It also means a (very welcome) glut of patrons in the direct path from my office to the ladies room, so at one point last week I sneaked through the theatre’s house to avoid the bottleneck.
As soon as I opened the door and stepped onto that darkened mezzanine, I was taken back to that life-changing day from my youth. The sweet smell of freshly cut wood and open paint cans wafted up to me. I sat down, hidden by the ghost lights on the front row of the loge, and watched my work colleagues from obscurity for a few moments. And I relished the awe and power of the things that the artistic teams do here seven times a year. The monumental accomplishments of a staff small and mighty. Dedicated. Talented. And the blessing that is experiencing a story unfold in front of you on one culminating, electrifying evening that crosses the boundaries of all five senses: the sights of massive set pieces from periods and places years and miles from our own realm of experience, the sounds of bellowing actors and sweeping orchestras, the smells of carpentry and artistic hands, the cool touch of a fog generated from a backstage machine, or the warm touch of a loved one’s hand from the seat beside you. Of a unique and unexpected emotion tapping gently on the door of your heart for the first time—or for the first time in a long while.
That’s the beauty, the thrill, the singularly splendid experience that is live theatre. And I feel endlessly lucky that we have so much of it to share.
Do you remember your first live theatre experience? Tell us about it!
And, experience our next production with us, Man of La Mancha May 4 – May 19, 2012.Photos: Top photo by Robert Clayton. The cast of PTC’s 2008 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Middle photo, clockwise from top: Mark Jensen, George Maxwell, Kelly Lisonbee, Reed Rossbach and Dave Paxton (seated) build and paint the sets and drops for Man of La Mancha.