Hello Acting Manitou! I'm currently on my winter break, gearing up for another semester of making theater at school. And as I prepare to get back to work, I've been thinking a lot about a certain infamous performance of Urinetown which took place two summers ago.
On dress rehearsal day, a good old-fashioned Maine thunderstorm was blowing across camp. During a climactic scene of the show, power went out all over camp and the theater was plunged into darkness. The actors stayed in character for a moment, but it quickly became clear that the power was really out and it would be unsafe to continue the show in the darkness. So Tim, Steve, and the production staff grabbed some flashlights, Matson and the cast conferred briefly about how to finish the show without electricity, and the show went on. Sitting in the audience, watching the campers give an incredible performance undiminished by the darker setting, I realized how true it is that you only really need two things to make theater: someone telling a story and someone listening.
We learn that lesson all the time at camp, as moments of theater break out all over: whether it's CIT Moments, an acting class, or ribbon dancing in the omelette line, we make theater all summer long. But thinking about it now, I remember again how necessary the second half is. We spend a lot of time at camp thinking about the person telling the story, but one of the things I love about Manitou is that we recognize how vital the person listening is. On performance day, we all watch each other's shows, and that experience of being a good audience member is just as much the point of the camp as the performing is. When we commune with nature, as the mission statement puts it, we're listening to the story nature is telling us, not just to the ones we're telling. Our tech campers remind us all the time through the beauty of their work that there are lots of ways to tell a story, and that a good audience member appreciates all of them. Even Roses & Thorns is part of it: listening to how your bunkmates' days were is just as important (and fun!) as sharing your own experience.
It's very easy to get caught up in telling our own stories; I know that I (for one) am often very focused on making sure my story is told the way I want it to be, whether it's a show I'm working on or even just making my way through the world. But every time I think about that performance of Urinetown, and the way the audience supported the cast and crew, I remind myself that listening to other people's stories is the most essential part of making theater. After all, isn't that the whole point?
Greenly and Gratefully,