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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2015

Offbook: Happy Holidays!

By Sarah Wade

“Make them laugh, make them cry, and
hack to laughter. What do people go to the
theater for? An emotional exercise. I am a servant
of the people. I have never forgotten that.”
—Mary Pickford, silent film actress.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y’ALL! WITH THIS FESTIVE SEASON ALREADY UPON US, IT’S hard to believe we’re three shows into the CP season. A fantastic season, I might add! As I write, we are approaching the last weekend of the run of Morning’s at Seven, and I’m sorry to see it go. It is absolutely delightful. I’m sure everyone realizes what a treat this cast is. 2015 12 17 1When I was growing up I especially admired these women—Carol Cohen, Lois Evans, Dianne Hood and Sharie Valerio—so to watch them onstage together is truly a gift.  

The show got me thinking about our history. I know a few members of that cast could tell some good stories about the earlier days of CP. I went through the show season history on the website and it’s incredible to see some of the shows we’ve done—shows that most of us probably weren’t around to see. Taming of the Shrew, Carousel, Twelfth Night, the list goes on.I don’t know how many of you ever sit back and think about Colonial Players, and how special it really is. We are on our 67th season. In a small city like Annapolis, that says something. For nearly 68 years, we have been creating art that the community has responded to. In 1949 a group of people got together, for the love of it, and I like to think that in the end, that is the spirit that we’re all still striving to embody.

It’s not like there haven’t been missteps. We’ve all stepped on each other’s toes now and then, figuratively and perhaps even literally, on stage. But we are family, all brought together by this magical little building and by our desire to create beautiful art.

Speaking of our building, I hope we all realize how fortunate we are to have the facilities that we do. For what began as a converted auto repair shop with coffee-can lights on stage, we certainly have come a long way, thanks to years of dedication. Did you know that when CP bought 108 East street, some members put up their own houses as collateral against the loan? That, my friends, is love. Love of the art, and of what they knew they were bringing to the community. Today, we have an extensive sound system and a lighting structure that some community theaters could only dream of. We might take for granted the fact that when you scan your key fob in, the lights come on, but we shouldn’t, because trust me, they didn’t always. Look how far we’ve come, and how far we can still go.

Our volunteers (and I say that because at the end of the day, and though sometimes it may not feel like it, it’s what we all are) are further proof that our founding members’ spirit lives on today. I see every day the lengths people go to to improve the theater and the experience that everyone has with it—from actors to behind-the-scenes volunteers and techies to our audiences. We redid the light grid to be more efficient, we got rid of that little step in A section, and lord knows I remember what the dressing rooms looked like 10 years ago.  Why go to the effort? Because we wanted to make things better. Because this theater has proven to foster an environment that few places offer, and we owe it to ourselves and each other to take care of it and strive every day to enhance it even further.

Think of the memories that have been made here. The bonds that have been made. Life-long friendships, sometimes more. Heck, I met my future husband during A Christmas Carol (thanks Dad!), and I know I’m not the only one who has had a similar experience. Something happens here, a common ground is found. Lasting relationships take root. Next time you’re at Harry Browne’s after a show, take a look around the table. I’d bet that, if it weren’t for the theater, most of the people there wouldn’t have a reason to be in the same room together. But there we are. Drinking, laughing, going to each other’s homes, celebrating birthdays and weddings. How fortunate are we to be able to look around a room and know that the faces we look upon are our friends? What a rare and beautiful thing. My fiancé Eric told me once about how Shirley Panek and Jeff Mocho had him over for Christmas when he couldn’t go home to Wisconsin, and how Jean Berard invited him for Thanksgiving for the same reason. That meant so much to Eric, and he’ll likely never forget it. That’s simply wonderful, and we should celebrate the fact that we take care of our own in such a way.

I should probably wrap this up, as I’m starting to feel a little like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas. I wasn’t trying to get sappy and sentimental, but I think, especially this time of year, that the community we’ve built deserves to be recognized, and we should be heartened to think of all that we have and all we should be thankful for. I for one, am thankful that Tim hasn’t freaking fired me, considering how long this took to write. But seriously, I’m grateful that I have this opportunity, and I’m thankful that I have a place like Colonial Players to call home. As someone special to me once wrote, “from the oldest one among us, to the youngest of the lot, bless us all.”