This post was inspired by Marilyn’s Photo Story prompt “A Face In The Crowd”. I usually find that Marilyn’s photos or stories send me off on a slightly different path and today was no exception as the story of her granddaughter’s high school graduation started me thinking about the first theatre performances I ever attended. I’ve never been to a graduation ceremony, mine or anyone else’s.
I do like the theatre though. One of my aunts had a love of amateur theatre and when we were children my sister, cousins and I were taken to see her perform in musical comedies two or three times a year. I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. It was my introduction to live theatre and even though the actors and musicians were all amateurs and some were certainly better than others it was very entertaining and at ten or twelve I was not overly critical.
There were actually some good performers in the Northern Light Operatic Society, the little company that my aunt was a founder member of. A lot of them were British migrants like us who had done similar things in England and wanted to continue in their new home. I just looked them up and found that the company is still going. The first performance I attended was “Quaker Girl” in 1966 and it was in fact the groups first ever show. My fourth grade teacher Louise Appels I think her name was, played the leading role.
I remember that my mother did not always share my enthusiasm although she would dutifully attend one show each time to see her sister sing. She used to say “It’s just people dressed up.” She preferred to watch a good film. Years later though, when my sister and I took her to some professional productions she thoroughly enjoyed them so I think that what she really meant was that it was not real to her because she knew it was her sister and friends dressed up and pretending. She couldn’t take them seriously. For me that aspect of it was quite interesting. I saw teachers from my school get up and transform themselves into characters which made them very different from the people I saw in the classroom or the playground. My cousins became involved when they were a bit older and my aunt pushed me to try it as well but I never would. I now think that she thought it might help me overcome my shyness but it was too big a step for me to take. If she’d suggested I get involved backstage or in some other area I might have felt differently. Backstage always fascinated me. I enjoyed it when we older kids were occasionally taken to a Sunday rehearsal and would watch lines being read and dance numbers practised. We’d get to go backstage down steep stairs and narrow corridors to dressing rooms that didn’t seem big enough to hold so many people. I saw that grease paint looks really peculiar in natural daylight.
It seemed posh to be going to the theatre too. It was the sixties and people still dressed up a bit to go out at night so we wore our good clothes. We would always meet people that we knew in the foyer, schoolmates with their families, teachers or friends of my aunt and uncle who would talk to my uncle while we kids bought ice creams or sweets or looked at the production photos to see who we could recognise.
Of course being amateur productions sometimes things would not go according to plan but it didn’t seem to matter and I can’t remember seeing any major disasters. I do remember one hilarious moment during a performance of “The New Moon” however. It was at a dramatic point in the story and the audience was listening intently. There is revolt on the ship New Moon and the captain cries “Is this mutiny?” from somewhere in the audience comes the voice of a small child “Yes!”
The whole audience dissolved into laughter and even the cast were having a hard time keeping straight faces. In true show business tradition though they pulled themselves together and went on with the show.