My husband, once an aspiring actor, was approached many years ago with the proposition that he direct a local theater production. He had no experience, but it was one of those “I can do that! How hard can it be?” moments. That was close to 100 shows ago.
His first production was “George Washington Slept Here,” a comedy featuring just about anybody who showed up for auditions. The set was a little unstable and handles came off doors, but it worked.
Shortly after that he directed the “Rem Shave Review,” an industrial show that starred employees of Remington Rand in Bridgeport, Conn. Those employees who were not in the production made for a good-sized audience, so the singing and dancing secretaries and mail clerks projected a lot of enthusiasm, if not much talent.
Eventually there were more plays, several full-scale musicals and a fund-raiser for the local hospital, dubbed “Needles and Splints.”
In the summers he produced his own dinner theater and the rest of the year worked full time as drama director at a fine prep school in New Haven, Conn.
After we moved to Vermont, he did a little performing and a lot more directing. The theater has been, after his family, his greatest joy.
I need not ask when a production is about to go to opening night. Our house becomes a “prop shop.” For those who are theatrically challenged, a prop shop supplies the things that make a set look like a real living room, or office or embassy. Furnishings such as drapes, paintings, coffee tables, carpets and the like are borrowed for the duration, but the borrowing is done in such a manner that it’s a game to detect what is missing. I remember once heading for the living room after a long hard day, to find the couch missing. Oh, well, I thought, and took my magazine into the bedroom. All comfy on the bed, I reached over to snap on the light…it was gone.
When I get to first view the play on opening night, I always feel so at home as I recognize photos of my parents, the afghan from the den, familiar house plants, and several throw pillows. The bookshelves are filled with titles I have known forever, and include my high school year book. Drinks are mixed in barware just like mine…It is mine.
Once when I was taking out the trash with a big paper bag from Lord & Taylor, I was stopped. It was a prop for “Barefoot in the Park.”
Even my children have been called into service when someone with a couple of lines got sick at the last moment. Our oldest fondly recalls his brief role as young Patrick in “Mame” when he was 10 years old.
Recently our dining room table was covered with some very dangerous looking stuff as my husband polished up a fake gun and wired some bogus dynamite for his current show, “Don’t Drink the Water” at the Dummerston Grange. I suggested he cover them with “play prop” stickers whenever they weren’t being used on stage. These days the realistic weapons would take some careful explaining if he were pulled over for a seat belt check.
Returning home from a visit to family in Cincinnati recently, I found he had managed to talk one of the grandkids out a stuffed bunny (who will play a live bunny) for the show.
Among the shows, plays, musicals and revues over the years, one stands out for its lack of props. I knew the only thing that might be missing the four times he directed “Our Town,” was the ladder.
I hope they remember to water the plants.