By Elizabeth Meynardie, Theater 101 Participant
I “owned” a piece of theater magic last week.
As part of Arena’s Theater 101 course I attended the opening night of The Music Man on Wednesday, May 23. I sat in my seat, having a wonderful time and surprisingly feeling an underserved sense of pride and ownership in the show. After all, the most you could say about my involvement was that I was lucky enough to be a “fly on the wall” at a few rehearsals. So why did I feel so invested in the outcome and so proud of “our” actors, musicians, crew, designers, etc.? The Music Man isn’t even one of my top ten favorite musicals, but…
We were there from the beginning, when the cast came together for the first time to read and sing through the show. I remember sitting in the rehearsal room feeling an enormous sense of excitement at just being there. The quality of the read through was pretty amazing for a first read, but what I connected with the most was watching the youngest cast members. It took me back to when I was a kid involved in a community theater production, and the total heart and body joy I felt just being in the rehearsal room. I felt that joy again watching those talented young actors.
Over the next month we saw parts of the show in a series of rehearsals. We learned about the complexities of casting the show, heard about the costumer’s shopping trip to NYC… We were there for the sitzprobe (yes, I now know what this means: a term used in opera and musical theater to describe the first time the orchestra and the singers go through the show together) and we worried about the fact that some bug was making most of the cast ill.
Then came the dress rehearsal when all the pieces of the puzzle came together. The dancing, the songs, the costumes, props… It was an exciting night, but you could still see the lines where the puzzle pieces came together. There was just something, some magic that wasn’t quite there.
And that brings us back to opening night… the excitement of watching the theater fill up - the feeling that we Theater 101 folks knew more about this show than the average theater goers. It was “our” show. The lights came down, the orchestra began to play… and the magic happened. That un-nameable mystery when performers and audience come together. Regular life is suspended and you are whisked away to another time and place. Every character was in sharp focus, the atmosphere sparkled. It was pure fun.
And though I was just a “fly on the wall”, I was as proud of this show as if I had directed, choreographed, designed, acted, danced, or played the trombone.
So thank you Arena Stage for the Theater 101 experience. Thank you Aaron and Amrita and all the production members who shared the process with us. I’ll be back again next year for more of the magic.