What makes local theater so special

by Monika Salvage
December 11, 2017
Published in The Citizen

There is nothing more exciting than sitting in a dark theater, looking at the stage with anticipation, waiting for the performance to begin. There is one thing, however, that can make this experience even more fascinating: When the actors are people you know, and you get to watch them transform into a totally different persona on stage. They are so close, you can see their facial expressions, yet for the time being, they are not your friend, father or child. Their job is to make you forget who they are or where you are at the moment and help you dive into someone else’s story.

This became very real last weekend when my family and I watched the Auburn Players’ production of  ‘Scrooge:  The Musical’ at the Auburn Public Theater. Not only were we amazed by the fabulous young and young-at-heart actors, but managing to move the audience (to tears, I admit it) with a play that most of us have probably seen many times in one form or another, is a great accomplishment and a tribute to the talent of all involved. The music choices invited to sing and clap along, the ever-changing stage set-up was interestingly versatile, the vivid portrayal of the characters so stirring, and the “surround-sound” of actors in the audience just gave you this cozy feeling as if you were part of the play. On that note, thank you very much, thank you very much, for getting this tune stuck in my head!

Last weekend, my daughter got to relax in the audience, but a little earlier in the month, she experienced theater from the other side, on the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse stage with 30 other kids who performed the heartwarming and funny play ‘The Lights of Jingle Bell Hill’ as part of the MGR Youth Theatre’s Junior Stars on Stage program. And this was not child’s play! They practiced hard twice a week for two months – singing, dancing, and acting – and they rocked the house. But what’s even more amazing to me is the coordination, memory, teamwork, focus, and confidence it takes for these kids to stand up there, bright lights shining on them, and they do their thing with big smiles on their faces like it’s nothing. Kudos also to the patient and tireless instructors who taught them so much more than lines; they instilled in them a sense of accomplishment, and that trust in themselves and the team along with hard work, dedication, and of course fun brings out the best in them and others. According to the little elves, they did the best they can, and it showed!

Theater can get us in the mood for the holidays, but it can also remind us of a local event in the past whose continued relevance has become apparent in recent debates and incidents around the country. Some of you may remember the 1993 Nazi march in Auburn and how this community came together and conquered a hateful message with love. ‘The March of the Big-Eared Nasties’ is an allegory based on this true story and shall help us remember the lessons learned. Auburnians Beverly and Bob Miller penned the storyline and music for this children’s play that was first produced in 1994. For me, an Austrian native, this topic hits especially close to home, and I am proud (and a little bit nervous) to have the opportunity (along with my daughter) to play a part in this meaningful production. The Nasties are returning to Friendlytown at 4 pm on Sunday, January 28, 2018, in the newly renovated Euterpe Hall at 68 North Division Street in Auburn. Let’s welcome them in.

Whether we watch students at school musicals or other productions at local theaters, it is a gift to have teachers, theater professionals, students and actors in our community who share their vision and talent with us. The arts have the capacity to entertain, challenge, and grow our minds, and it is great to see local venues expand. The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse will be utilizing the former West Middle School auditorium for added programming and the Auburn Public Theater is planning to add a cafe to their current location downtown. Look no further, we have great local theater all around us. Let’s support it!

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