Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Crucible as Crucible

My poster collection tells me that today is the three year anniversary of my debut at the Old Opera House. I have mentioned the circumstances of my winding up there before, at least in passing. Yet I wanted to explain more of its significance on a person level for me.

For starters, a recap of how I ended up in the production.

I had had no luck in local community theatre after graduating high school. So I tried my hand at a monthly reader's theatre. Each month a play would be selected, parts would be handed out, and the group would cold read it there at the meeting, and discuss it for a bit at the end of the evening.

On my third or fourth trip to this activity, I was told by the organizers that the Old Opera House in Charles Town, West Virginia, was still running short on men for their production of The Crucible. So I called the director, was given a part, and arrived for my first read-through sometime in August. Hence, the beginning of my association with the place. (And thus far the only time I got into a show without having to audition.) I played Thomas Putnam.

I suppose one could not have asked for a better first time experience with a theatre company. First, I had the excellent words of Arthur Miller to work with. It also happened to be the year of the 50th anniversary of the Crucible's original opening, which was noted by local press. And, we had a full house nearly every night, (a rarity for a non-musical) because the play was on the curriculum o just about every local high school. Students and teachers alike cam from everywhere to see the production.

The best part, however, was the 100% dedication of everyone involved.

I have been in many plays, and worked with many fine people. Many people I have worked with more than once. So the Crucible was by no means the only high quality production I have been in at the Opera House. But it does rank in my memory as the one show where there was zero doubt about the excitement and commitment to excellence on the part o every single cast member and crew member. From the sound design and lights, the set construction and acting. From the oldest actor in our cast, to the youngest at around age 11, everyone took every moment seriously, and still enjoyed themselves. (Something most 11 year olds these days are not exactly known for.)

The cast bonded very well, and although I am not close to any of them at this point, some of them are still counted as my friends. The more important thing though, was that at the time of the show we all got pretty close, and it allowed me to be comfortable in what was at the time, a strange theatre. Doing so did feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, so the camaraderie that developed was, in a fashion, responsible for my survival of this baptism by fire into a new theatre world.

Though there was initial awkwardness and discomfort performing on a stage other than the one I was used to (in college), my inhibitions burned away faster because of the nature of the cast and crew. In that sense, being in the Crucible, did in fact act like an actual crucible for me...burning off the impurities of my initial insecurities. It showed me that I still had it, even though college was behind me. I was no fluke. I had what it required to be an actor, without a need for the security blanket of people I went to college with.

Three years to the day, it is a lesson I have held on to.


Susan Abraham said...

How wonderful this early experience with theatre, Ty.

I wonder: did you cling on to any romantic illusions afterwards, that would be deemed the perfect memory in later years of what theatre was all about and in so doing, did subsequent performances appear to fall short of expectations or that you would feel short-changed because the first time arrived & fled so perfectly?

It's like me on discovering contemporary British fiction which stays an immense passion to this present day. Reading Iris Murdoch, Martin Amis & Margaret Drabble amongst others made for such excellent memories that newer books today by different authors just cannot match that early feeling of a self-declared ecstasy when I first discovered the fiction I would learn to write and wove dreams out of them.


Ty Unglebower said...


There was a little bit of that, for no cast has ever quite come together like that onehas. But other shows have compensated by being great in other ways in which the Crucible may have lacked. so it tends to even out.