When I was getting my degree in language arts education, I had to take several theater classes. As an English teacher, you never know if you’re going to end up teaching drama, journalism (print and/or broadcast), yearbook, debate team, or several other extracurricular clubs that seem to come with the territory. Although I eventually got a master’s degree with a concentration in theater, it was academic, not production, so even then I would not have believed in my wildest dreams that I would one day become the president of a community theater group, much less its director.
Yet, that is exactly what has happened. Two years ago, I got involved with the Greenville Area Arts Council’s summer productions: first as a stage manager, then as a performer. This year, though, after our director moved to another city, we found ourselves without a group or a show. Dismayed, those of us who wanted to see this endeavor continue banned together and created The Greenville Community Theater.
Tomorrow night, we open with Crimes of the Heart, a play by Beth Henley. Set in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, in October 1974, COTH features the dysfunctional Magrath sisters who have come together to save one of their own from impending doom. Along the way, other characters attempt to assist them in their plight.
We picked this play because it is set in the South in a recent enough time-period that we felt like we could accommodate the setting, hair, makeup, and costumes. We also liked that it only had six characters, mostly females, because let’s face it: sometimes in a small town, it’s hard to get people to try out for a show.
Since the time of the audition, we have rehearsed every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoon from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. We have built sets on Saturdays and Sundays. We’ve taken our Wednesdays (and Fridays and Saturdays) to search for items we needed or to put together displays or to put out posters and signs. We’ve rehearsed, we’ve built, we’ve bought, and we’ve borrowed to get this show together. Heck, at times, we’ve even bled for it.
But most importantly, we’ve learned. As a first time director, I have felt terror, exhilaration, exhaustion, and happiness to the point of tears. My emotions have run the gamut. At times, the play seemed so far away until I didn’t feel like it would ever happen at all, but now, here we are…on the verge of the last dress rehearsal, and all I can say is “WOW!”
I don’t think people who’ve only ever seen a show realize just how hard it is to pull one off. Oh, I’m sure it’s easy for large companies who have tons of paid employees, but for small town folks like us, this is a big deal. We don’t just love this play…we’ve lived it, breathed it, and devoured it for so long now until it is permanently embedded in our hearts and minds. It’s a part of who we are, and we just hope and pray that our audience will like it. Sure would be a huge let down if they don’t.
So, here we are, the night before we open. Our last dress rehearsal. One more time to smooth out any troublesome parts and get everything right. I know all directors must feel this anxious at this point. It’s our last chance to fix things because after this, what will be…will be.
Here’s hoping that our play is a hit and that our audience loves it!