This has been a difficult time in our community and our country. In the face of people marching in the streets of Charlottesville, natural disasters, and unimaginable loss, it can be hard to find the positive things that give meaning to our life. These times also lead us to examine our own lives, to see if we are making personal choices that align with our internal values.
When I’m in these reflective moods, I take a step back from the work we are doing at Four County Players and think about what benefits the theater brings to our community. Sometimes it seems that a few hours of frivolous music, or pretending to be someone else for others’ entertainment, is meaningless when so much is going on in the world around us. But then I listen to the audiences after a show, and I know that is not true.
On the evening of August 12, when the Charlottesville community was still reeling from what had happened that day, we had a sold-out performance of our summer musical, The Addams Family. I’m sure many people who came that night would rather have stayed home and pulled the covers over their heads. Members of the cast were encouraged to avoid discussion of the day’s events and just focus on putting all their emotions on stage. In welcoming the audience, board member Randy Clark acknowledged what a tragic day it had been and encouraged everyone to allow their spirits to be lifted with a few hours of light-hearted entertainment. Did our show that night change anything that had happened? No, but the comments from so many upon leaving was that it was “just what they needed” on that day. Theater has a wonderful ability to lift us out of ourselves and give our souls a chance to rest and recharge.
A few weeks later, we had the joy of celebrating Four County Players’ 45th season with the wonderful Best of Barboursville musical revue. Even though I had watched rehearsals and seen a bit of the development of the show, I was surprised at the depth of my emotional response during the performances. It’s amazing how a few songs on the stage can help you process emotions that you didn’t even know you had, even as you enjoy the humor, artistic talent, and power of the performers.
So why, when so much in the world around us is so bleak and scary, do we continue to do theater and pour energy into creating fictitious worlds on-stage? We react to events around us with both logic and emotion, and theater offers us the chance to process the emotional part at a subconscious level.
In a few weeks we will open our Cellar production of The Crucible, which will show us how theater touches our current reality in a whole different way. The journey back to another time period and another struggle may just give us insights into what’s going on in our world today, and we hope that audiences will leave those performances with a new perspective or a renewed resolve to affect change in our present community.
THAT is why we do theater.