Apr 20, 2010

Memory Lane

Today on American Theatre's Facebook page, the question is a hoary one, but the answers are choice: "What is your first theatrical memory, and was it enough to hook you?"

I have a few favorites. Kerry Reid tells of an early production of Oklahoma! in which "my brother got so excited during The Cowhand and the Farmer that he yelled 'Charge!' " Terrence Mosley reports that a production of Indian in the Cupboard marked a crucial milestone: "I had behavioral problems and it was first time I stood still."

There are quite a few memories in which small details brought home to then-young theatergoers the juxtaposition of theatrical magic and ordinary reality, which as we all know elevates both alchemically into a unique realm that's between the worlds of real and imaginary (and that's what we call the theater). Two vivid examples relate this realization to hands: Farah Sanders recalls that after a Berkeley Nutcracker she got to take pictures with the "Rat King afterwards and I remember being fascinated by his human hands," and Jo Howarth Noonan says she remembers her "sister melting into the stage as a 10-year old Wicked Witch of the West. I was only 6, but I noticed that she failed to hide her hand under the cloak. In the years that followed, I've made other mistakes on stage but if my hand is supposed to be hidden--it's hidden."

And nothing sticks like the combination of accident and audience participation. Recalls Heather Beasley of a seminal West Side Story: "One of the prop knives landed in my lap during the big fight scene! Completely hooked."

Because I'm the moderator on the Facebook page, identified there merely as American Theatre magazine, I don't tend to weigh in with my own personal anecdotes. So I feel moved to note here that my first theatrical memory, outside the stray Sunday school Bible story, was my 2nd grade birthday gift: tickets for me and my best friend, Paul Kaiser, to see a Phoenix Little Theatre production of Oliver!. Was that enough to hook me, dear reader? Hard to say, except to add that when it came time to choose a name for my son, I didn't choose Paul.

Oh, and another lively post today asks, "What space near you would be ideal for a site-specific performance?"

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