Well, we did it.
We opened Wayside Theatre's 50th Anniversary Season last night with a stirring production of Reunion: A Musical Epic in Miniature. I have to tell you the burden of guiding such a talented group of artists and administrators to this higher than normal expectation filled opening took a toll on me. That toll is ameliorated somewhat by the amazing talents and selfless collaboration of all who were involved in the mounting of the show. The six performers and those that support them were not just amazing last night, they were on fire. The met the stage and the play and then shared it with the audience in a way that sent chills down my spine. That doesn't happen much to this grizzled and battle scarred director. Each and every one of them had moments that were transcendent. Each and every one of them achieved new highs. Each and everyone of them, their talents, and their efforts will always be cherished as a highlight for me in a long list of opening nights.
Reunion was and is not a safe choice for our theatre and our community. Some have called it a "Yankee play." As one patron suggested last night, "it is a brave choice for this small Southern town." Maybe so. Yes, it challenges. Yes, it makes you think, and, yes, it takes you to places that are uncomfortable. But not just for Southerners. If I did my job correctly it pushes buttons with even the most progressive of thinkers. And while it deals with racism, The Civil War, and the complexities that make up our American character, then and now, it also reveals the searing personal moments of human beings caught up in something so much larger than themselves. With words spoken and sung on stage drawn from the actual characters who lived through those times, it is amazing how many of the thoughts and ideas behind those words of yesterday not only resonate but, sadly, still fill our conversation today. At its heart, Reunion is about all of us in its scope, and how far we have and haven't come since we decided to take up arms against ourselves. At its core, Reunion: A Musical Epic in Miniature is a celebration of the theatre and the images that it can convey that challenge us to think deeply about our convictions.
In the beginning of the second act, when Mr. Harry Hawk's company is performing a "popular entertainment" and the audience responds with the release of laughter to the inane silliness of the song and the moment, there is a moment where truth stabs those who think deeply in the heart with a stiletto. When Mr. Lovecraft says "this is the age of shoddy," in response to the goings on, it makes you realize just how long that age has been going on.
So, we're open and now on to the run of the show, which should prove more than interesting. But then, that's why I think Mr. Lincoln loved the theatre.