An Ode to the Small Theatres

Jonathan Fong
Here’s an ode to the smaller ones among us.

Here’s to the actors who toil away in closet-sized rehearsal spaces, warm up in public bathrooms, and stretch on odd tables and benches. To the leading lady bursting with excitement to be let loose, even if only on a makeshift ‘stage’ that’s actually a cornered off part of the gym. To the boy cast in his first show, frantically going over each of his ten lines to make sure he nails each and every one of them.

Here’s to the artists who have to make do. Here’s to the painters who paint masterpieces of backdrops with dollar-store paint and decade-old brushes because they don’t have anything left in the budget to use. Here’s to the prop designers who stuff old top hats with underwear to make them stand and painstakingly tape together broken props that just need to last one more show five minutes before curtain. Here’s to the costumers who play Dr. Frankenstein each time a new show’s put on, mixing and matching costume parts and hats and wigs to make something that, in the end, surprisingly looks like it might actually be right.

Here’s to the crew, scurrying about and coordinating with runners and messengers because they can’t afford radios. Here’s to the volunteer stagehands dressed in varying assortments of black, grey, and the odd white sock from the newbie on their first production who didn’t know they were supposed to wear all black for a reason. Here’s to the stage managers, clipboards filled with unintelligible scribbles and minds filled with unintelligible cues they have to call right. Here’s to lighting, to SFX, to the technicians using decade-old mixers and forever entangled rigging, braiding old cables and wires if only to make do for opening.

And here’s to the director, hair in a constant frazzle from telling people where to go and what to do while himself trying to juggle his brilliant creative direction with the demands and limits of what he has now. Here’s to the choreographer struggling to teach the 10-year-olds in the ensemble how to do the finale song’s choreo the night before opening. Here’s to the friends, the family, those loved ones who inevitably come to support all this controlled madness on opening and closing night (sometimes, the same night). Because one day, maybe all of these people might move on, graduate to bigger and better productions, command Broadway stages and garner appreciation, while the next generation fills their place in the wings, waiting for their chance to shine.

Here’s to the small theatres and what they bring us all.