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Thomsen Talk: “It’s like building sandcastles”

The artistic director of Barrington Stage, Alan Paul, said, “Theatermaking is so rewarding and heartbreaking, because it’s like building sandcastles that will be washed away with the tide. The fact that it is ephemeral is what makes it thrilling and so vital.”

In 2022, the people of Quincy Community Theatre built eight unique sandcastles: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Mame; Miss Electricity; Trap; Legally Blonde; Calendar Girls; Flora and Ulysses; and Little House on the Prairie. Such care and creativity are invested into shaping stories into pieces of theatrical entertainment, in hopes that the viewer will be pulled in, marveled, and delighted, just like when discovering that magnificent sandcastle on the beach.

Rewards while building the sandcastle include seeing ideas that came while sitting around a table now taking physical shape on a stage, discoveries on what a certain line or lyric means, breakthroughs on how to overcome a particular challenge, personal journeys of growth, new relationships, and volunteers and, eventually, audiences experiencing and connecting to a show they had previously never heard of. Whether the experience is that of an audience member for 2 ½ hours or that of a crew member for three weeks or that of an actor for 8 weeks or that of a production team member for a year and half, it happens. It happens, and then it is gone. Just like a wave on a beach, there’s no stopping it. To put all that effort into something that won’t last, it almost seems cruel, but it must be worth it.

The ephemeral nature of theatre is the very reason we do/see theatre: we want that which can only be experienced right then and there, knowing that those 2 ½ hours will never be the same as another 2 ½ hours, knowing that they were just for us. We need that shared connection, breathing the same air, experiencing the joys and trials of a character right alongside them. Theatre reminds us of our humanity.

In homage to our final show of the 2022 season, I shall give the final words to Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is how she ended her first book, Little House in the Big Woods:

When Laura and Mary had said their prayers and were tucked snugly under the trundle bed’s covers, Pa was sitting in the firelight with the fiddle…. Pa’s strong, sweet voice was softly singing:

“Shall auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Shall auld acquaintance be forgot,
And the days of auld lang syne?
And the days of auld lang syne, my friend,
And the days of auld lang syne,
Shall auld acquaintance be forgot,
And the days of auld lang syne?”

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods…

She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

I’m thankful for my sandcastles. I’m thankful for my now.

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