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Honorable Mention - "A Theater"

1994 Anne Horton Writing Award
Honorable Mention
"A Theater"
Amanda Grove

It is dark. I feel as if no one else knows I exist, or I know of no one else that exists. The walls are absent of windows and in their place, columns of rich brown paneling stand quietly, absorbing years of history and secrets they are aching to tell, but know they never will.

In the blackness, I need no light to guide the way. I know it well. Step, step down. Step, step down. I walk down these stairs, my footing never faltering. It is a place I know well. And with confidence, I rise onto the last step that becomes the stage--my stage in my theater.

I know others may have claimed it for their own, have felt the same intimacy. But for now, for this moment, it is in my possession.

I cross downstage center and listen. The silence is deafening. The exit signs provide a faint glowing, an aura. I've only known this place for six months and have only performed on this stage twice: once in Players In a Game and then at a Performance Hour. But I feel at home. It is a place I know well.

I can't help smiling at the memories as I close myself into the virtual world: all of the many late night rehearsals, that I've always loved, being yelled at and snapped at for goofing off and giggling just a little too loudly, constructing the set and watching it, myself, and my companions growing and absorbing the knowledge that the walls and the theater have added to its collection of history, then tearing down the set and weeks of work in less than two short hours. That is the only unhappy experience for me here.

I turn and head for my real destination, the place where I hang out when I need to be alone. I tangle myself in the velvety, slightly musty-smelling curtain and fumble for the light switch--only the one light switch. Too much light would be...well..too much.

After climbing and tripping over the debris that is left out on the sidestage (brooms, broken props, and pop cans), I reach my "office," the backstage. This is where it all happens. This is where the sweat and work and meaning lies. This is where I know I'm at home. I know it well.

There is a table, cluttered. It used to be cluttered with twine, tools, and tape measures. Now, it is cluttered with my tools: jambox, empty pop cans, scrapped rough drafts, and pens. I have marked my territory. I ignore my hollow footsteps, and I ignore the echoing voice in my head scolding," NO SMOKING!" I light up and sit down on the hardback chair. My name is carved in this chair. He had carved it there that first morning when He introduced me to this place. We sometimes sit here, together, in the early mornings chatting or just listening to music. I mind not at all sharing this with Him.

I can't say that about everyone, though. More than once I've found myself being jealous. I'll go to walk in the theater, before class, to find strangers using "my" theater for their seminars or whatever. Or, I'll walk in to find someone rehearsing something, anything, I don't care! I know it's stupid and useless to feel so possessive and overprotective, but I do. I can't help it. This is my second home, just me and the stage. I know it well.

Sitting backstage, I'll unzip my book bag to begin the homework I've put off long enough already. But just sitting there, thinking and looking around, wondering about all of the stories and events taken place here is much more appealing.

It's wonderfully easy to think here. There is a single, blue light bulb to aid the dim overhead lights. It helps create shadows and that's not lonely. It creates an atmosphere that doesn't obstruct my thoughts. There is no one and nothing to influence my ideas or decisions. There is just the seven to eight foot high pile of lumber and discarded parts from past sets.

It is so quiet and calm, it's almost unbearable. I feel so close to myself and close to finding the answers to who I am. It is so close to reality, it's unreal. And when I leave, step outside the door to civilization, the "real world," I feel more confident and more clear about dealing with "life's daily battles." They seem smaller, easier to tackle. It's a beautiful thing.

But this feeling wears off in a matter of hours, as I get caught up in the "fast-paced lifestyle of a midwestern college student." But this theater always draws me back, and I give in. And once again, I feel the satisfaction.

I have to write this, sitting here, my eyes straining under the dim, blue light bulb. I have to write this here, now, with my back against a hardback chair with my name on it because when I read this, later, and I'm away from here, I'll doubt my words.

As I sit here, I look ahead, into the future, and I can almost see another, like me, appreciating every dusty corner, every battered throw-rug, every signature that is graffitied on the wall. And I'm grateful that they have a place to go to. But, the jealousy inside of me wants to know that this place will always be "mine."( I'll never forget it, at least.)

I want to know that the last time I walk out of that theater door with the glowing EXIT sign, I have left something behind, in the silent paneling, the curtains, the air! I don't want to go, leaving it to continue like I was never there. And so I try my best to linger through my performances and my morning visits. I'm remembering every crack and dustbunny, so that even when I'm long and gone far away from here, I can always come back through the memories.