Theater is a mirror of society, reflecting the good, the bad and the hopes in us all.
So what did we see in the festival’s mirror? We learned about acceptance, communication, love, airplane travel schedules, the English translation of an angry dog barking and to be careful what you wish for. I used to wish for a life in the theater, but for me, that wish gave way to other dreams for the future, so I would first like show my appreciation for having the opportunity to reach back and touch the surface of the mirror.
“Putnam County Spelling Bee” shows us the most important reflection, ourselves, and how to accept yourself for who you are, and,in doing so, hopefully we can all accept each other despite our flaws and differences. When I say be careful what you wish for, you must think I am talking about “Into the Woods.” If getting what you wish for is going to hurt others, the community or yourself, then maybe you were not meant to have it. It might be a case of not thinking the implications through, or is it just that you think the grass is greener? You could also apply this life lesson to the farce “Boeing Boeing.” Our leading men wish for the “freedom” to do whatever they want, but it turns out what they really wish for is love.
I always loved performing, and I got into theater at a young age. I believe it is a great experience for young people to get involved in theater, and I am glad Festival 56 has a program for kids. For those who want to pursue it, there is nothing more valuable then working with people of such a professional caliber.
So what is the lesson of “Oliver?” The simplest lesson of all — we all deserve to be loved.
I loved many things this year: Favorite actor? Drew Arnold, a character actor who does not even know his own range yet, but I suspect he will. Favorite actress? Sarah Smith, who does know how to use all of her range, but I am sure will continue to grow. I would like to also put in a special mention to Marissa Martinez for her natural ease and a complete performance each time. Best vocals? Sarah wins the double, need I say more? With a nod to the bell tones of Tom Rusterholz, the power of Ashleigh Thompson, the honesty of Amanda Speare, and the grounded soulfulness of Laura Brigham.
When we look into the theater’s mirror, we do not always see what we want to see. “Sylvia” shows us a common problem in the human experience, the midlife crisis. Mathew C. Scott played a man unsure of his place in the world and his relationship with his wife. Throwing himself into another relationship is normally a recipe for disaster. In this case, the other relationship is a dog. All you pet owners can relate to how deep this relationship can get, and how we have a conversations with our pets. We project our opinion of what the animal would say, but we are really having a conversation with ourselves. Some people have told me they thought there was too much cussing, but that is the mirror reflecting our society, or our personal experience. That kind of language is more normalized than ever, but as a theatrical device, I thought the language tirade coming from the dog, was a great representation of an angry dog barking. If you were made uncomfortable by it, you experienced exactly what the author was going for.
We each bring our own image to the mirror, so the refection we see back is also a reflection of our past experiences, and It will influence our likes and dislikes. What touches the emotions of one person may not mean anything to someone else. I am glad we have Festival 56 to continue to hold up that mirror and challenge us to really look at ourselves. I look forward to seeing many more explorations into the human condition.