At the back of our theater, underneath the buzzing worklights and pitch-black curtains, facing the cool dark stage, hundreds of pieces of wood and building material lean against the wall. While this may seem like simply storage space for building materials that is prettied up and hidden by curtains and lights when it comes time for our stage to become somewhere else for a little while, I think behind that curtain lies a graveyard.
The wood back there is big and small, cut in odd shapes or left in the same manner in which we bought it, some of it painted, some bare, some of it is not even wood. But among the painstakingly organized plywood and styrofoam and crown moulding, memories lurk in every corner. Each year two major productions take place in our PAC, two worlds are created and must be disassembled to make room for the next. Each year we instill these pieces of wood with passion and imagination, love and creativity. Each year the sets we build and play pretend amongst become a physical manifestation of the bonds we have created and the memories we have shared. Our blood, sweat and tears are poured into a piece of art that is so special because it is not tangible, because after you have lived with it for a little while, it goes away. Theatre by definition is a moment. So we instill those memories inside what tools bring us to that moment.
I remember in the long hours we took to take down elaborate sets, a senior who had just closed their last show with Hale Theatre found a set piece that they had built with their own two hands from the first show they did on that stage. It was a small piece of wood, painted all black that once played the part of a building in a city skyline, practically useless for any other set; it had sat since they created it at the back of the stage. A piece of their first theatrical endeavor, the first time they had helped to create a world and tell a story on the Nathan Hale stage had followed them through thousands of hours of rehearsals and performances, work parties and auditions, watching over them as they grew from a freshman who had never done theatre before to their final time gracing our stage.
There are pieces from sets from shows done years before any of those who currently make art in the space were here. Behind us, watching over us. Reminding us of the tradition of making theatre art, telling us the fragments of stories they contain. All around us there are memories, from the posters in the booth telling years of history, to the layers of black paint beneath our feet. Theatre is a moment in time, no show happens the same twice, it is a series of coincidence and intention that leads to one night of a completely unique telling of a story. But even though the moment is fleeting, and before too long fades into the space in between the storytellers and the audience, each show is never truly gone from the theater.
So, we stand before you this fall, telling love stories, showing characters falling in and out of love, pouring our passion into the creation of something meaningful, watched over by the love given to our space and our program by those who came before us.