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From Page to Stage: Escapism via Live Theatre

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From Page to Stage: Escapism via Live Theatre


Travis Laurence Naught examines the relevance and importance of theatre and stage productions, especially as we begin to pivot out of a pandemic.

My Uncle Tom directed my dad in a stage production of Lone Star by James McClure when I was seven years old. The decision was made to edit the content for more palatable public consumption in the small town of Goldendale, Washington. Scripts were handed around the cast, and for several weeks I was privy to a full behind the scenes look at what it meant to perform.

There were PG-13 comments that I can still remember reciting as a helpful read-through partner: “They don’t really show anything, just a squiggly line …;” as well as sad, defensive comments about war, “You call it Vietnam because you weren’t there …;” and plain old ridiculous comments, “It’s not his Mar Bar or her Mar Bar, it’s Mars Bar!”

And the set! My uncle’s other half, at the time, designed a rotating stage that was turned at intermission. You see, Lone Star was the second half of a duo that was bookended on the front half by Laundry and Bourbon, also by James McClure. A living room where three wives kibitzed about their husbands and life transformed in a spin to the back porch of a bar where the husbands of these wives played out their histories in the form of comedic arguments and conciliatory understanding.

It was a lot for a seven-year-old to take in. I saw several of the performances over the two-weekend run at the middle school I would eventually attend. While I have never trod the boards, I have been hooked on live theatre ever since. I remember seeing Hamlet, Titanic, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead on field trips in high school. During my 21 years living in Spokane, I have been to probably 75 different shows. That feels like a lot, but, my God, the number of shows I have missed.

While I have never trod the boards, I have been hooked on live theatre ever since. I remember seeing Hamlet, Titanic, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead on field trips in high school. During my 21 years living in Spokane, I have been to probably 75 different shows.

There is theatre available at least five nights a week here. Touring versions of Broadway productions set up in the First Interstate Center for the Arts. The Spokane Civic Theatre runs a full season of mainstage plays and also hosts the Firth J Chew Studio in a different portion of the building that has frequent smaller productions. Stage Left is another very active venue. Those do not even begin to exhaust the number of community theatres, school theatres, collegiate theatres, and outdoor seasonal venues that exist.

A recent production was put on by the newly minted Upstart Players at the Washington Cracker Building. They hosted a one night only staging of A Bright New Boise by Samuel D. Hunter. It won a 2011 Obie Award for Playwriting. According to the Obie Awards website, these awards have been acknowledging the best off-Broadway productions since 1955.

The venue hosts a very large capacity for a very small stage. I have actually performed an original song there during the Get Lit! literary festival in 2018. There were at least 200 people there that evening. A Bright New Boise brought in a modest crowd of 40 or so. The lack of microphones and speakers to amplify the players made me glad I was in the front row, and I feel a little sorry for anyone in the crowd who might have been hard of hearing.

I had a bit of insider information about this play as well. The lead actor, Chris Hansen, had traveled with me to the city of Boise for a comic book convention the weekend prior to the show. On our way back, we did a complete readthrough of the play so he could practice his lines. I got to be everyone, from his boss to his estranged son to even a possible love interest. This foreknowledge of the script prepared me for some of the difficulties in content that Mr. Hunter did not shy away from in his writing. It also gave me a chance to compare my efforts with how the professionals did it.

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Four-letter words are the least of concerns in dealing with the subject matter, but all of the four-letter words are contained in this play. Even the ones with the capital letter F and C …. So, be cautioned in advance if you ever have the opportunity to attend a production of this in your city. The most difficulties were surrounding the idea of family and faith.

I’m not going to go into it all, but I will say that it is direly important for actors to project not only in voice, but also in physicality. The physical actions of these Upstart Players were pretty damned incredible. One of the characters was prone to panic attacks and those were performed exquisitely. I found myself nearly hyperventilating along with them. Another was a dominant defender of the estranged son in the play, and he owned his presence in coming to the young man’s defense. Bravo.

This was the first community-sized production I had been to since COVID, and I am ever so grateful to have things like this available again. The thoughts I am left struggling with keep me from focusing on my normal day-to-day worries even more than a week after attending. In fact, I have had more critical considerations of life based on my attending A Bright New Boise than I have since seeing Wicked for the third time just six weeks prior.

Thankfully, I have more scheduled enjoyments in front of me, with tickets to Pride & Prejudice on stage at Eastern Washington University and Much Ado About Nothing by the Spokane Ensemble Theatre already purchased.


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Travis Laurence Naught

Travis Laurence Naught is an author who happens to be a quadriplegic wheelchair user. Individual poems, stories, and various other material by Travis have been published online (Section 8 Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, Damfino Press, and others) and in print (Gold Man Review, Lost Coast Review, Empirical Magazine, and more). His first book of poetry, The Virgin Journals (ASD Publishing, 2012), is currently out of print, but copies can still be found. Check out naughtapoet.blogspot.com for more information and original writing by Travis.