Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pay No Attention to that Girl Behind the Curtain!

One of my very favorite places in the world is the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. This is despite the fact that they spell it "theatre" when it's supposed to be "theater"- the theatre is the art, the theater is the place... and the Fox is definitely a place. But, anyway.
I love this place despite my spelling issues.
I don't even know how many shows I've seen there. I ushered there in high school and college so that I could see a bunch of shows on the cheap. Ask me anything about the place... I probably still remember a lot of info from usher training.

Is there a better place from which to watch Cats? I mean...
Even the hallways to the bathrooms are awesome.

I took my kids there last summer for a Wiggles concert. It was ridiculous how much I loved seeing them in that place.

And then, back in college, I had the most amazing opportunity. I got to perform at The Fox with the Georgia Tech Chorale in the Atlanta Ballet's run of Carmina Burana.

I can not believe I still have this flyer.
During the run of Carmina Burana, I got my first really good look at the Fox Theatre curtain. You know, the big, red curtain on the stage:

because I was right there on the stage and I could even touch the darn thing  if I wanted to 
There's something important about that curtain, and it's been bugging me. There's a connection I'm supposed to make between that curtain and performing at The Fox and cancer. I hadn't been able to nail it down... until a couple of nights ago. In that place right before you fall asleep, I finally got it. I want to try to articulate it.

The curtain on the stage at The Fox is very heavy. It's a deep red and it feels like velvet. It probably is velvet... but it's very thick and very heavy. That's important.

When you go to the theatre (I know) for a performance, you enter the beautiful auditorium through the beautiful lobby and look for your beautiful seat. When you're first seated, the curtain is firmly closed. Then, the music starts, the curtain opens, and a carefully choreographed and rehearsed performance starts. You see only what brought onto the stage.

The audience knows that, somewhere backstage there are people working the lights and props, rooms of costumes and make up, and who knows what all back there to make the performance happen. But, though they know these things exist, the audience isn't really aware of them during the show. The hours of rehearsal that went into creating the show before them... all the work that went into this performance... it's appreciated. But not really recognized. Does that make sense?

When you're on the stage at The Fox and the curtain opens, this is what you see:

This picture is way better than the ones I took* from the stage. 
Except when the house lights are down and the stage lights up, you can't really see this many seats. It's like two rows and then darkness. But those big, white lights there under the balcony? Those jokers are bright and catch your eye about 200 times per performance. Anyway, the stage view? Just as magical as the view from the audience.

When the curtain is open.

When the curtain closes, the audience stays in the beautiful place. But for the performers, the show ends. The backstage isn't as beautiful as the front of the house. At The Fox, it makes sense. When they were restoring the theater, they went for the places that people who buy tickets would see. The backstage areas aren't as restored. At least they weren't when we sang there. The backstage was old and in need of some repair. It needed paint and the orchestra pit would blow a fuse if it got lowered all the way. The handrails on the stairs were a little shaky and the stairs were steep and narrow. It's not glamorous back there. I think that made me love The Fox all the more... getting to run around backstage and downstairs and learn some of that old, haunted place's secrets.

<I have pictures of us backstage at The Fox, but no scanner! Bah!>

But that part is not what you're supposed to see. That thick, red curtain is a boundary. It's a concrete line between the performance and the audience. And the perspectives from either side are interesting.

The audience thinks that the show is up there, on the stage. They're wrong. The performers know that the show isn't on the stage- it's in the audience's minds. What's happening on the stage is just costumes and hitting notes and remembering to fix that thing we talked about after the matinee. It all gets turned into something meaningful when the audience sees it. What's happening on the stage isn't real. The show is in the audience's mind. how very Gestaltian of me.

A lot of work goes into making sure the audience just sees the good parts. They only see what they're supposed to... all the work that it took to get there is hidden. All the messy, backstage places are out of sight.

The show is great. It's magic. But you can't perform all the time. Sometimes, you have to be backstage in the not-so-pretty places.

On this whole cancer journey, I'm not in a pretty place right now. This part is confusing and weird and tiring. And I'm sorry that I can't be as perky and optimistic as I was when I first got my diagnosis. This part isn't as pretty- I just can't seem to make it that way. But it has its own character and can still be pretty awesome.

I'm hiding behind the curtain for a while. If you don't mind the "character" of things back here, you're welcome to take a peek. I'll do as many pretty posts as I can. But please understand when I sometimes get tired of being ok with things.


*Ok, true story. People took a LOT of flash pictures of us at Carmina Burana. A lot, usually after the show. So... yeah... at the last performance, when people started taking pictures at the end of the show, I may have accidentally pulled out my own camera and started taking pictures back. Allegedly. 

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