Folks keep telling their stories about Wayside Theatre. This one is from Malia Arguello, a former stage manager, writing from that unique perspective. The Stage Manager runs the show. A stage manager is there for every rehearsal, every performance, every audience reaction, every actor moment that touches home, and every curtain call. Think of it this way, a stage manager is there from the moment of conception, through every step of a show's life, every joy, every sorrow, every challenge, every victory, right up until the show takes its last breath, and the audience has given their final applause to a magic moment in time.
How do you explain Wayside to other people? I think it may be impossible to wrap up my love for this place and these people in words no matter how many I use. But I will try. In a word it’s home. When people think of home it usually brings up a number of different emotions. A place where there are people you love who can also drive you crazy. A place where you are nurtured and challenged. A place where you grow even when you feel like you are regressing. A place for hard conversations and easy laughter. As a girl who grew up in Los Angeles coming to rural Virginia was quite the culture shock for me. But this sleepy one stop light town has offered me more than any metropolitan area in which I’ve had the opportunity to work. A lot of people have talked about the kids and how amazing it has been to watch them grow and blossom in this artistic environment and I agree. But for me it has really been watching the adults.
As the Stage Manager I would sit at the back of the theatre and while you watched the shows I would often watch you. I would watch you come in to the theatre after work, obviously tired, wondering if you had made a mistake buying tickets when there was so much to do at home. There were chores to do, bills to pay, children to take care of. You sat in those seats before a show feeling guilty about giving yourself those 2 hours away. I saw the weight of the world on you. You talked to your significant other about plans for the next day. “You have to get up early and mow the lawn before it rains.” “Did you pay the electric bill?” “Do you think the kids are ok? Should I call the sitter?” But then something magical happened. The lights dimmed. Your focus went from your cell phones to the stage. And then it happened. Your shoulders dropped. Your eyes widened. Sometimes it was laughter, sometimes it was tears. Sometimes it was quiet contemplation. In October it was almost always a frantic looking around trying to figure out “Who is the killer?” In December it was holding a family member’s hand and being so happy that they were there with you to share this moment. Remembering in that holiday season what you wished you could hold onto all year. In the Spring you let go of each other’s hands so you could clap along to the music (not always on the beat by the way!) of Buddy Holly or the Sander’s Family. In the summer you were whisked away to a farmyard for “Honk!” or Gilead for “Spitfire Grill”. And I loved watching you make that journey. That’s why I do this. I don’t save lives. I’m not a heart surgeon and I’ll never cure world hunger but I can do this. I can help to transport someone from their world into another for at least 2 full hours. And that is magic. And Wayside is the perfect embodiment of that magic.
It’s a little brick building in a sleepy one stop light town. And that community deserves it. The people of the Shenandoah Valley deserve to be shown the world. They deserve to see how beautiful their own world is through the eyes of playwrights and actors. So please, please do not let this place die. Please fight for it. If I could be there I would be there but due to budget cuts I was one of those forced to move on. But even so I love that little building. I make the 6 hour drive whenever I can to come home and watch you from the back row now and not the booth. This place is worth it. Please help if you can.