A Loco Viewpoint

Crimson Cappers

    As I write this, it is a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. Spring is throwing off its dirtied white winter coat as patches of grass regain its healthy hue; as if recovering from some wicked lawn flu. Birds are singing sweetly in the trees since they tragically lack karaoke bars. As time kills April a little bit every day, on the march toward the welcome warmth of May, my mind is fixated on what spring means to me. 
    I know the saying goes that for young men, spring is supposed to turn their fancy to love. My fancy is not about thoughts of love at all, however, as the old adage suggests. For one thing, Cupcake would both kill me and my fancy in a heartbeat. Nor is my mind preoccupied with the rebirth of the good Earth, Easter, or anything else normal people associate with the season. My vernal fixation is about the Calmar Prairie Players big theatrical production we have held every spring for close to a decade. As exciting as the prospect is of having another of my plays hit the stage, there are elements of the process that are more terrifying than running into a rabid, zombie pitbull with a machine gun that is trying to quit smoking.
    The play is called, "The Crimson Cap Ladies Save the Day” (to spare myself a lawsuit from a certain international women's organization that wear red as their gang colours). It is the hopefully hilarious story of a group of rather eccentric older women who get tipsy while trapped in a bar with a UFO encounter nut named, "Buck". He is a full-fledged member of the tinfoil hat brigade and makes even conspiracy theorists seem downright intelligent.
    Buck and the other characters in this piece are all being played admirably by actors both local and on loan from other theatre groups in the area. Our goal is to one day have a production featuring only Calmar actors for our shows, of course, but we’re not quite there yet. Unfortunately, being in a play for most people, appears to be as popular a pastime as cleaning up the winter's cache of doggie doo revealed by the retreating snow. The fear of “freezing up” is too scary a prospect for most folks although it does help with the doggy doo.
    Even though the cast has brought their characters to life both skillfully and creatively during rehearsals, there is still much angst for me; almost as if I was an expectant father. These plays are like my children, only much better behaved. I am only too well aware from personal experiences that in any live performance, things can and do go sideways. Being a director, instead of an actor this time, I know no matter what happens onstage I can’t help. Instead, I will be spending the play pacing at the back of the Calmar Legion while pooping cinder blocks every time there is a pause that sounds like someone has forgotten their lines. Being the playwright, I will also be engaged fully in measuring the laughs of every line that is intended as a gag. Each laugh-line that is met by silence makes me die inside a little each time. It has happened often enough in my previous plays, doctors suspect I have liver damage. Frustratingly, audiences laugh at different parts of a play during each performance. One wonders if the fault lies with the script or the crowd. Personally, I blame the crowd, even if it is a blatant coping mechanism.
    Besides perfecting the performances, there are a huge variety of puzzle pieces required to complete a picture-perfect production. There are ads to sell, bios to collect and pictures to take for the program. There is also marketing to do to sell tickets since having a play without an audience seems as pointless as working out to get ultra buff and then wearing a shirt. Not that I know anything about buffness since my body type demands a shirt always be worn or risk sumo wrestler references. Other jobs include booking the hall, adding an addition to the stage, designing the set, building the set, dressing the set, erecting the stage lights, setting up the tables and chairs, putting out the linens, buying and/or creating table centrepieces, and making sure we have enough tequila backstage to provide courage for our performers. (No one should have to go out on stage all alone.)
    Luckily, the troupe has the pity of many wonderful volunteers that help to make the show a reality. Some even volunteer willingly and don't have to be bribed, bullied or coerced by loving family members who are in the cast. We are constantly reminded that community theatre is a team sport, not much different than the slow-pitch ball team I ran for a decade. The only difference is a lot more people come to see us play characters than ever watched us play baseball. The food is better, too.
    I have to say it is very validating as a playwright to have so many people work toward a vision that starts out as a single keystroke on a Word document in my computer. I am well aware there are many scripts written by much more famous people than me that never get produced. They never get to see their dialogue come alive or an audience enjoy their story. I never lose sight of how lucky I am. 
    Except for the angst part. Only two weeks until show time! Ack!
    The World Premier is on May 1 with a show-only performance for just $15.00 while the DINNER theatre seats go for $40.00. Please call 587-594-3250 for tickets. 

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