Rehearsing in the Kitchen

Posted in Midsummer, Theatre of the Mommies on July 25th, 2011 by kellinewby

“Mommy?  Can you watch me?”

“Not right now.  I’m rehearsing.”

A few seconds pass.  Lex goes back into discussing Helena.  She’s half a sentence in.

“Are you still rehearsing?”

Theatre for us has always been a delicate balance of real life and art, but now, in the absence of a space, we have retreated to our living rooms and backyards to rehearse.  It is comfortable in these spaces, so doing table work around a dining room set has a certain level of ease we never got from a makeshift surface at 57 Main.  Hypothetically, we can store the kiddos in the next room with all their toys and be in rehearsal while watching them but–

“Mooooommy.  Are you done?”

Lex takes a deep breath, pulls at her hair, and looks at her darling four year old.  “Go play.  Please.”

The backyard is a wonderland of things most four year olds would love–we can see the tops of colorful inflated toys through the window, but this one is not interested.  He turns his giant eyes on us, hoping one of us will jump up and volunteer to play with him.

“In a minute,” we all say in our own way.

The theatre had always been a retreat from the domestic.  It was a place where we were not afraid to shout or go big.  In someone’s kitchen, it seems odd to be yelling lines or throwing oneself on the floor in front of the baby who watches from his high chair, chewing away on a melted Baby Mum-Mum.

“To the Nth degree!  Louder!”  Lex and Wendy call through the threshold.  They’re watching us from the dining room as we flop around in the kitchen.

So we take it up another notch, start using the walls, throw ourselves against a refrigerator and slide down, trying not to worry about knocking magnets off it.  The fact that we’re in Lex’s kitchen gradually melts away as much as it can.   Wendy grumbles about needing that rehearsal space sooner rather than later.  Between the heat and, today, the rain, venturing out into the backyard has proved tricky so far.

“Mom-meeeeeeeeeeeee.”

“We’re done. Okay?”

He seems pleased.  As I pack up my things and head out to the door, the four year old approaches me.

“Why were you being so mean to Mollie?”

He has been overhearing us rehearse the Lovers’ fight scene and I have been calling Mollie a “canker blossom” and a “thief of love” and then loudly threatening to claw her eyes out.

“Well, in the play, Mollie stole my boyfriend.”  Trying to explain that it was really fairies and a love flower and mistaken identity seems too complicated somehow.  “Anyhow, we’re all friends by the end of the play.  There’s just a misunderstanding in the scene we were reading.”

He asks a few more questions and really listens to my answers.  The kid understands what rehearsals are, what plays are, and that sometimes grownups are acting crazy because a play tells them to.  We all say we don’t want our children to be actors, that we want them to run far, far away from the theatre, but there they are on the edges absorbing.  And now we are in their houses, rehearsing around their toys, in their spaces.  Well, there are worse things that getting an early start on your Shakespeare.

He accepts my explanation and asks me if I’ll play Lego Star Wars with him.

Maybe he won’t be an actor; maybe he’ll be a Jedi instead.

Saying Goodbye in Stages

Posted in moving on July 16th, 2011 by kellinewby

At 5:30 we took our bows for the last show at 57 Main.  At 6:00, they came to take our lights.  It was more finality than I was prepared for and an already emotional day was ending on a down note. Instead of one last ecstatic dance party after one last show to a sold out house and a standing ovation, a handful of us ate pizza and then danced halfheartedly in the lobby.  On stage people went up ladders and lights came down.  Though I knew that it was all for the best and that the people who had come to take the lights were deeply appreciative, the timing was awful.  In that moment, I could think of them only as vultures.

In the balcony scene, Romeo and Juliet cannot bear to say goodbye–parting is such sweet sorrow.  They drag out their goodbyes with promises, one last word, one last glance.  As far as they know, the future holds nothing  but passion and dreams come true.

One last show.  One last dance party.  One last look.  The time was ticking away to days and I felt a little bit like the lovers saying a thousand tiny goodbyes and not meaning most of them.

Two weeks later, I open up the backdoor of the theatre and find that it smells different.  After one weekend of moving our costumes are gone, as are some of our set pieces, and, of course, the lights.  Already the musty smell that is unique to 57 Main is altered; every theatre has its own smell.  I walk through the half-moved space.  It’s in the chaos stage where things seem like they’ll never be better, that we’ll never get it all done.  I spend two hours alone in the prop room, moving and sorting and tossing.  Huge wolf dummy–keep.  Old liquor bottles–toss.  Pre-wrapped gifts.  I hold them and remember the skit we made them for.  Then I toss them.   Goodbye, old junk.

One week after that, we all meet up and move for two days straight.  We talk about Shakespeare and unscrew the seats from the risers.  I watch the strong men we strong armed into helping us get sweatier and sweatier with each flat, platform or furniture piece they carry up from the basement, around the twist in the landing, down the narrow aisle and out into a truck.  We watch progress being made.  On the second day, near the end, we move the ghost lamp.  As we open the doors to the new space, a smell hits our senses.  We all think it.  The new space smells like our theatre.  I put the ghost lamp down and we declare it, metaphorically, a theatre.

Of course, it wasn’t over yet. There were still things left–some couches and a whole lot of junk that didn’t sell at our junk sale.  The guy taking over the space offers, mercifully, to help us with the end of the process.  Then he asks if I could meet him there and show him how the lights work.  It was a theatre for twelve years, I explain, the lights were all plugged into dimmers on the ceiling. We rewired the place;  there aren’t any lights on switches.  He realizes that I can’t help him solve that problem.

Last night, I ran into Ed while eating dinner at the Hub, the restaurant next door to the old space.  Whatever you do, he said, don’t look next door.  Of course, I did.  Whenever I am downtown, I look in the window and see what they have done.  I peer through the posters, cup my hands around my eyes to block out the glare, and see what is gone.  The risers, the wall behind the refrigerator, the junk sale remainders.  The stage.  The booth.  Tonight I saw they had knocked down the wall between the stores.  He had to have really wanted the space.  It was (and will be) a lot of work to undo the theatre, but he’s getting it done.  I guess I keep waiting to feel sad or angry when I peek into the window, but maybe the thousand little goodbyes I said along the way worked.

And besides, as far as I can see, the future holds nothing put passion and Midsummer Night’s Dreams.