Posted in moving, Running the theatre on February 24th, 2011 by kellinewby

This is a quest.  We find guides who lead us to strange new places.  We are looking for a grail.

The steel door had been painted crayon red and, though it had a normal-looking lock, it still had a door handle much like I imagine fortresses have with built in bars.  Our tour guide pushed it open and revealed another big mill space.  We’ve seen a lot of big mill spaces, but this one was warm.  This one didn’t smell of—anything.  We separated into our interest areas.  Ed went to the walled in area that might serve as an office.  Juliana walked around looking up, down and around, taking in the whole space.  I admired the old shoe boxes on a rack near the door.   David went for details, tugging on one of the many dangling extension cords.

“What was this space?” Lex asked.

“A sweat shop,” David joked.

We know to look at the roof, at the windows, to find the fuse box and the emergency exits, to see if there’s plumbing, to see if there’s a place for a wood shop, for props, costumes, and actors.  We know to ask about the heat–is there any?  Is it loud? Are there sprinklers?  Is there handicap accessibility?  These things are boring details.  These things are important, but sometimes we can lose ourselves in the wonder of the space.

We know now that these old buildings spiral off into strange worlds and we find ourselves on the set of a post apocalyptic movie–giant abandoned rooms stuffed with artifacts of a culture that is long since gone.  The people who lead us through these spaces sometimes discover new things, new rooms, new doors into these old worlds.  Sometimes they know about these rooms and are thrown off by our non-space related questions and curiosity–what was this place?  Do you know what that thing is?  Do you think we could rig this structure to do something completely different?   These places are full of stories and all these doors and hallways are branches leading us to new worlds over and over.

As theatre people we are part scavenger, always looking for the details that pull a show together, the bits of things, especially Juliana and I–a set designer and a props person.  In a sprawling basement below Main Street two weeks ago, she and I wandered deeper and deeper into the unknown and found a stash of things left behind from decades of tenants–a Yhatzee box from the 50’s, a pile of Rolling Stone magazines from the 1980’s.  The room was warm and dry.  We navigated the uneven floor with light from a cell phone.  We passed a land of abandoned toilets, bikes, and window screens.  The basement smelled of dirt and oil and dust.

The rest of the party called to us from above.  They had found a new staircase, followed a door and found themselves on the other side of a wall in a huge room full of refrigerators.   Juliana and I found our way up and joined them and stared at the wall that we could punch through to make more room.  It changed everything about the space for us.

But it wasn’t a revelation.

Deep down, we all know there isn’t a grail; there are many.  There’s going to be something good and something bad about each place we find, and we will have to weigh the pros and cons of each one. There won’t be a moment of discovery that solves all our problems and answers all our questions.  We find dead ends, regroup and try a new path.  We get inspired.  We get disappointed.  We get e-mails telling us about a new location.  We start to dream again.  Maybe there is a grail.  Maybe this is the one.  Friday at 2:00.  A new lead.  A new guide.  A new world.

The same quest.