A Loco Viewpoint
True Community Theatre
When people talk about community, it’s like they’re talking about something from a bygone era, like rotary dial phones, leprosy, or black and white video games. (Any Pong fans in the room? You, with the grey hair.) In our hectic lives, it is often all we can do to have enough time for family, never mind spending time on community projects and service clubs. Volunteering is, sadly, going the way of renting videos at Blockbuster.
For those who still believe community matters, even in the computer age, however, they find the experience just as hugely rewarding as it’s ever been. This is especially true if you include your family in the project; killing two birds with one stone (no matter how much it upsets PETA).
That was the premise behind the Calmar Prairie Players doing some community outreach with their production of Tony Palermo’s hit radio-play-for-the-stage, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We wanted this production to be, as much as possible, by the community, and for the community, with the proceeds going to the community. The show was designed to accomplish many things, most importantly, to entertain and fire up local folks’ internal Yule log, by watching a terrific Christmas story done by people in their town. All of the gate receipts, profits from the raffles and money we raised by charging smokers twice to get back into the show, went directly to our town’s Christmas Elves charity which makes the holidays brighter for those with dimmer prospects than others.
Why would a struggling troupe like ours commit so much of our own resources to a project that would net us zero profit, besides rampant insanity at the upper levels of its leadership? It wasn’t because it’s a cheap tax dodge. If our drama society was a person, we wouldn’t make enough to pay taxes. We’d be recipients of Christmas Elves help. Indeed, the show actually cost the group significantly for the royalties and scripts, but we did have an ulterior motive. We’d heard everyone else has an ulterior motive and we felt bad we didn’t, so at our last board meeting, we voted to adopt one.
The ulterior motive was to grow our group’s membership. Though we love to welcome fellow thespians into our casts from area theater groups, it’s also very neat to have local people discover hidden talents, besides crushing beer cans against their head.
Being completely committed to the project, our female cast members did what they do best, went shopping. They bought late 1940’s attire on their own dime and did it joyfully. Mind you, they were women shopping for clothing and that’s generally how they get anyway. One woman spent $160.00 on a new dress, explaining she’d bought it while her husband was off hunting and felt she was owed.
Finally, opening night arrived and the cast was ready. An area stylist, Laurel, had generously donated her time to do our female cast members’ hair in period coiffures. They all kind of looked like refugees from a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movie. The herd of little girls in the production were overcome with joy at their hairdo’s and commandeered the stage during room set-up to have a “fashion show”. If it had been any sweeter, we’d all come down with diabetes.
The show opened with a surprise for the director, Angie. My darling, Cupcake, and our friend, Roxanne had practiced a couple of lovely carols, and set them to a montage of heartwarming Christmas pictures. When they sang so beautifully together, (a legacy of lives foolishly spent singing karaoke) it sent shivers down the spine. Good shivers, I mean. It was lovely and I’m not just saying that so Cupcake won’t kill me.
Then the show began. I’d mentally gone over my personal pre-performance check list I’d developed to prevent on- stage embarrassment. Costume: Check. Script: Check. Position: Check. Then I remembered, I’d forgotten one small, insignificant element; the zipper check.
Ascertaining the your fly position in front of an audience without them, or Kara, the twenty-something sweetie sitting beside me, noticing takes guile I don’t posses. I considered my options. I could brazen it out; fumble with my nether regions hoping to resolve the issue, while trying not to terrify the women and children. Or I could hope a cast member would give me a heads up. Knowing this cast, I held out little hope they would give me a word to the wise. They’d let me go on with a booger in my nose. I solved the issue by holding my script lower than usual. Much lower.
The matinee performance was worse, however. After passing my zipper exam before show time, the button on my pants decided to try and escape its pressure-filled life and jettisoned itself into the crowd. I was afraid we’d get sued until no one screamed.
As we proceeded towards the final bow, I was filled with elation. We had prepared a lovely gift for our community, and they accepted it with open arms. The audiences were attentive and generous with both their funds and their applause. We almost made, in two performances, the same amount as last year with three, a whopping $1100.00 . That would be the equivalent of a theater group in Edmonton raising fifty cents for every citizen, or about $500,000.00 , from the proceeds of two shows. I was so proud of our group. We took a chance and it paid off handsomely.
William, a young boy in the cast, insisted he select my fortune cookie at the cast party after the show from the Chinese food that, new grandma, Angie, the director, had supplied. I smiled when I opened it. It read, I swear, “You will continue to take chances and be glad you did.”
I could not have had a more appropriate fortune.
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