Here we go. Tonight is opening night at Wayside Theatre. We had two excellent previews of Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming yesterday. Our cast did a brilliant job and our audiences helped us learn more about the show. After a final tune up today before the opening night curtain, we'll be kicking off some great music and great theatre and my hunch is this is going to be a night to remember for those on both side of the footlights. (If we had footlights. But you get my drift.) The audience last night gave the cast a standing ovation and that sent us all home feeling good about the day's work.
Of course tonight is about this new production, but it will also, necessarily be about this campaign to save Wayside Theatre. That campaign, like the show, is just now beginning to find its real voice. We find more and more individuals accepting our offer to talk in depth about what it takes to keep Wayside Theatre not just alive, but capable of providing the high quality of work that is exhibited in this latest, and we hope not our last production.
I had two individuals point to the dichotomy and the challenge in conversation yesterday. They both were extremely impressed by the quality of the production and the level of talent and skill that our actor/musicians brought to the stage. "How could you need so much help if you're able to pull this off?" That was the essence of their query. That answer is simple. Because these gifted performers and the staff that backs them up care so deeply about this "little theatre with a big heart" that they are willing to put their talents on the line in this final fight to help secure this theatre's future. When audiences experience such quality on our stage it is understandable why it is so difficult to see the need for larger support.
But notice I said "final" fight. One way or the other this will be the "final" fight. We'll either succeed in this campaign and develop and maintain the base of support this theatre needs or we won't reach our goals. In the first case there will be many more standing ovations at Wayside Theatre. In the latter, there will not be.
Our task these next two months is to convince audiences to take the time to talk with us in order to understand the need and the case. Frankly, that's not an easy task, but it is necessary.
Last night prior to the show I was out front of the theatre speaking with a staff member when a couple approached the theatre from across the street. I could tell they were first-timers because they had that look that folks approaching our building for the first time usually do. I asked if I could help. The gentleman asked, "is this where the music is tonight?" I asked if he was here to see Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming. "Yes, that's it." I pointed him to the theatre entrance to buy his tickets.
We've seen this many times before and it is one reason we do shows like Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming. "Guitar musicals" we call them. There are folks who only come for the music and these kind of shows appeal to that demographic, if only for that. This show does have that music but it has so much more in terms of its storytelling and powerful monologues.
During intermission I asked the gentleman and his wife if they were enjoying the show. I got a one word answer. "Powerful." After the show I spoke with them again. He was a bit angry. He was angry because he couldn't get tickets for tonight's opening performance because the show was sold out. He wanted to come again right away. "We'll be back," he said. I know that for this one night, we had done our job with what we put on stage.
Now it is time to do our job to make sure we can continue to do that for the many more folks in our community whether they come for the music or come for the drama or for whatever reason they want to spend a few hours with us.
If you'd like to read more about this campaign please check out more infomation here on this blog, on Facebook, or at Wayside Theatre's website. If you'd like to help or share your story we'd be very grateful.