Friday morning, as I stood with Scott and Pam Nolte in the Gordito’s parking lot watching water cascading into the lobby of Taproot Theatre, one thing was very clear: there would be no performance of Enchanted April that night. There would be a mountain of work, sorting everything out, getting the theatre back on its feet, making the decisions needed to make the path back to normalcy clear. But as the minutes ticked by, the staff of Taproot began to show up one by one, and the game was afoot…Enchanted April would continue…somehow.
I can’t give you the blow by blow of how the morning went at the administrative offices of Taproot Theatre as calls and emails went flying through Seattle’s theatre community. I know there were mulitple offers of spaces from various theatres, and the machinery to move all the costumes and sets (the set pieces that could be moved) from Taproot to a new space was somehow cobbled into place. (Examiner.com credits a Twitter campaign centered in the offices at A Contemporary Theatre downtown for getting the word out that help was needed.) A touring show that was scheduled to play at a school Friday afternoon managed to get what they needed from the theatre and that show went on as planned, and there was another performance that afternoon featuring two members of the Enchanted April cast for a convention event of arts professionals. Sometime late in the morning, the decision was made to accept that generous offer from Seattle Children’s Theatre to use one of their spaces, The Charlottle Martin Theatre, a beautiful 500 seat proscenium space. The staging of the play would require adjustment–Taproot’s stage is an intimate 220 seat thrust space–so Friday night’s performance was cancelled in order to restage the play for two performances on Saturday.
As costumes were being dried (amazingly, the fire sprinklers in the dressings rooms had not turned on, though they had turned on in the adjacent green room) and treated (they reeked of smoke), as sets and props were being moved, every patron that had tickets for the weekend shows received a call detailing the situation and the options. Friday night’s ticketholders would have their choice of shows on Saturday, and though some couldn’t make the change, most did. We had no idea what audiences would be like on Saturday, but whoever was going to be there, we figured they’d bring a lot of love.
The rehearsal Friday night was smooth and fun. The hospitality of SCT floored all of us; baked treats, well-wishes, kind hand-written notes, and lots of work on their part to help prep the space with lights, sound, and props. And of course, it also meant altering their own work schedule in preparation for their upcoming production of Peter Pan. As it turns out, one of the primary concerns about this whole event has turned out to be the inability for Taproot to ever be able to adequately thank or repay SCT and the rest of the Seattle theatre community.
The new digs for the show both demanded and created a new energy among the actors. The performances had to grow in size to fill the larger space, and it was just great fun making the physical adjustments necessary for the new actor-audience relationship. Saturday’s shows went beautifully, and as actors, we were thrilled to have the chance to experience a new life in these old lines we knew so well. The discovery of new nuances, the happy realization that the production could indeed translate the experience well in a completely different venue, and the deeply satisfying confirmation of the support and love Taproot Theatre enjoys among its patrons and the larger Seattle theatre community all made for a rich and satisfying–and memorable–closing day.
Looking back on the experience from a bleary Monday morning, knowing that the Taproot staff is meeting even now to make huge decisions about what the immediate future holds, I count myself so fortunate and blessed to know these good people, and to be a part of this larger community. In an age of technology, the live actor on a stage in front of the live audience can still deliver an experience that is unmatched and unparalleled by the best of films, the best of TV shows. I know, it’s just different, but…
Film and TV I enjoy.
Theatre moves me, calls to me…