|Organization:||Cyrano's Theatre Company|
|Region:||Southcentral / Municipality of Anchorage|
|Program Area:||Arts, Culture, Humanities \ Performing Arts \ Theater|
Transformations: live small theater in Anchorage
Eccentric Theater Company
The resident company at Cyrano's Off Center Playhouse is committed to producing professional quality dramatic works utilizing Alaskan talent.
Limited budget aside, we were also concerned about our two children, ages six and ten. We weren't sure they could sit still enough to avoid distracting viewers or the stage actors themselves, just a few feet in front
of us. The stage and the front-row seats were all on
the same level, closely packed. When, as the play opened, two characters wheeled a piano onto the stage, we all had to pull in our feet.
To make room for a latecomer, my daughter moved from her seat to my lap. Would the actors be even more distracted? Could they hear the rustle of my coat every time we shifted? In the play's first few minutes, I worried that I'd be unable to lose myself in that realm of suspended disbelief that drama requires. My daughter squirmed, too – embarrassed, I think, to see the actors on stage pretending to be people they were not, enunciating and gesticulating with such abandon, so close to us.
Until. Until... Until we all start to believe. In Dick Reichman, playing the lead role of the "Old Man," a paranoid piano tuner living in a group home, afraid the staff is trying to kill him. In Bernie Blaine, the "Old Woman," playing the role of a jaded, retired pianist who, by play's end, will warm to the possibilities of both music and love. In them both as a bickering couple, a tender couple, passionate despite their ages, hopeful despite their disappointments. Reichman and Blaine are veteran local actors, skilled beyond expectation, the kinds that prompt us to lean our heads together and whisper, "This is Anchorage?" I hope the audience members directly opposite don't notice my red eyes and lack of Kleenex, the way I have to wipe my nose on my fleece sleeve. Our children, too, are entranced.
In one scene, traffic lights flash on the pane of glass above the interior door we entered to reach our seats. Our intellects know the door leads only to Cyrano's café. But our hearts believe there is really a highway just beyond that doorway, a car accident, a tragedy involving the main character. My daughter whispers, "Will he be okay?" At intermission, we walk through that door and we are like Dorothy trying to look beyond the Wizard's curtain. What started out seeming so unreal compared to life, so unpolished compared to Hollywood, has become real, important, and true.
I love movies, too, but this is different. Maybe it's the community aspect that makes it so – the act of watching all this alongside other people, instead of at home on a screen. Maybe it's the risk involved. At this production, we are watching live, local actors – people like us, daring to embrace new personas, right in front of our eyes. It's such a perilous undertaking; so much could go wrong, especially on a stage this small. But that's not all. We're taking the risk with them, proving ourselves believers in imagination. In transformation. We have met them halfway, leaning forward to see around the set's crowded edge, leaning forward to hear every word, allowing ourselves to let go, to shed self-restraint, to believe; to be seen in a public place, with red-rimmed eyes.
The play ends and the lights come on. We all blink, trying to find our way to back to reality. I recognize an acquaintance in the audience. We stumble toward each other, voices low with awe, saying, "Wasn't that something? Wasn't that wonderful? What else has he written? What other parts has she played?" And out on the street with my husband and children, walking into a brisk winter wind: "Don't you feel lucky?" And, "It was worth every cent. I'm so glad we came."