After a spirited discussion at the most recent Theater Project Board Member meeting revolving around Executive Director Wendy Poole’s inspiring letter “Why do live theater?”, I somewhat impulsively blurted out “it’s not an either or situation! It’s because it’s part of our nature! It’s part of who we are!” This got me thinking, why do we do live theater? More specifically, why do I do live theater, why do I seek it out and what does it mean to me? The reasons, of course, are myriad, but as Wendy’s letter states, it’s the “longing for connection”… and the enduring, compelling tradition [of storytelling] - “plain and simple.”
These are the bigger truths to be sure. During this time of the seasons changing, we become preoccupied with returning to routine, to home, to finding a place, or places that give us sustenance. Sitting in the waiting room while my car was being serviced, I picked up a glossy magazine that featured celebrities who were returning to their ‘roots’ on the stage.
“People say, ‘I should see more theater’ as if you have to, like going to a dentist. But it’s meant to be good for our soul.” — Phoebe Waller Bridge
I believe very strongly that going to and participating in live theater is a transformative experience. I remember distinctly my early experiences on stage and how they affected me. So, too, in my early adulthood, through my time in New York during my “salad days” as a young actor and even later working way off broadway in ‘black box’ performance spaces with people who were struggling as I was and have now, some of them, moved on to significant careers in the entertainment industry.
When, after a twenty plus year hiatus from acting, Al Miller and then Karin Baard, took a gamble on me as an extremely ‘rusty’ performer, I jumped at the chance. I found refuge at The Theater Project. It provided me a safe place to play, to engage — or reengage with a part of myself that had been dormant for a very long time, a part of my soul (for want of a better word to describe the place from whence creativity flows) began to flourish and soar. This little theater on School Street became an acknowledged restorative place to connect with people, ideas and performing that are essential components of what every human being needs; a place to be seen, to be heard, and a place to become oneself again.
“There’s a sacred element to going to the theater every night and giving myself to this ritual.” — Kerry Washington
Google any performer you’ve admired on Netflix and chances are their bio will show that they started out in a place very similar to ours, and that they revere the time spent there as being a seminal component to their artistic development. The curious thing is, many people who come here for classes or performances who don’t go on to a career in the arts, also have life altering experiences, either performing, working as a stage manager, lighting designer, stage hand or ushering people to their seats. There is indeed something magic that happens here when the lights go down and we sit in the dark with strangers watching a story unfold.
“Theater doesn’t age. It lives in the moment, only in the present.” — Ethan Hawke
Through this blog, I hope we can connect and share some of these particular, ephemeral moments that are what make live theater to special, so essential to our whole beings. This is why it is so important to support our gem of a theater company and why the storytelling must continue.
If you are on our mailing list, please be on the look-out for The Theater Project’s Fund Raising Appeal in the mail this week. Please give what you can, every bit helps. If you are reading this blog for the first time and are interested in becoming part of the conversation, please send an email to www.theaterproject.com
We look forward to hearing from you.
Bronwen Crothers came to Maine from New York City in 1994 with her infant daughter. She has worked on stage, in television (back in the days of beta), in publishing, also freelance writing and editing, as a drama coach, private school English teacher and of course, at LLBean. She retired from there in 2018.