Their yells could be heard on Strawberry Alley, the applause as far away as Commerce Street, and the combination of both sent tremors through Dog Hill. We had busloads of well-mannered first graders come in silent awe for SchoolHouse Rock, led by educators who know and understand the value of attending live theatre. The students were told to enter this sanctuary silently, as if they were holding bubbles in their mouths.
But as a pre-show warm-up, I did everything I could to break up the solemnity and turn it inside-out to unabashed chaos. I felt like Ed McMahon warming up an audience for “The Johnny Carson Show.” I love the theatre and have an almost religious fervor for its importance in our lives. The pleasure it brings, the growth it encourages, and the economic value to our town are incalculable. And first graders weren’t the only ones to enjoy SchoolHouse Rock. Kindergarten through fifth-graders, along with some nostalgic adults, attended our weekday matinees.
We gladly close the Roxy during Rivers & Spires, since our 65-year-old walls were never meant to shut out the high-tech, amplified sound which exudes from the stage in front of F&M Bank, nor the noise a crowd can create just by being. Sadly, this venue couldn’t function for anything during that annual event. We tried for years to present and/or compete, but the chance to engage a new audience wasn’t possible when amplified sound met with the un-amplified human voice.
But it is a small price to pay for the common good. It brings in people, at least letting them know there is a Roxy and that there is also a downtown city center here in Tennessee’s Top Spot.
Ralph Conklin took time out from nursing a rotary cuff replacement to restore an old-fashioned wooden school desk for Spring Awakening. And now, for our upcoming The Wedding Singer, he volunteered to build a larger-than-life wedding cake, which for a while filled our lobby until we could coerce the cast of The Wedding Singer to jostle it up the back steps in sections. The cake is so big that it took two trips from Ralph’s home to the theatre. Its size and four moving sections seem more appropriate for MGM than our postage stamp-sized stage. I can’t wait to see it in action. Thank you, Ralph.
“13” is the center of a triptych of productions connected by the general theme of growing up, flanked on one side by SchoolHouse Rock and, on the far end, by Spring Awakening. One makes basic learning fun, simple and entertaining; the other advocates the importance of learning before it’s too late; and in the middle is “13,” a play which reflects the fears and woes of turning, being and living through the first year of the unfathomable angst of being a teen. “13” continues in theotherspace through May 26 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 6pm and Saturdays at 2pm and 6pm. All tickets are $10.
See you at the theatre!