LESLIE CRISS: Peek behind the curtain reveals even more magic

By Leslie Criss / NEMS Daily Journal

“Theater is a verb before it is a noun, an act before it is a place.”
– Martha Graham

“Applause begets applause in the theatre, as laughter begets laughter and tears beget tears.”
– Clayton Hamilton

“From the start it has been the theatre’s business to entertain people … it needs no other passport than fun.”
– Bertolt Brecht

Deep inside there’s a wild and crazy actor screaming to take the stage.
In reality, it’ll never happen.
I cannot imagine this painfully shy person ever feeling comfortable center stage. Or even in the chorus.
However, the bug has, I believe, bitten. The backstage bug, anyway.
Since before Thanksgiving, I’ve been helping out with Tupelo Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Dixie Swim Club.” You can look just to your right and read entertainment writer M. Scott Morris’ story about the show. Please do.
I’d like to hold forth, if I may, about the story behind the story. The inside scoop. The backstage scuttlebutt, if you will.
Puffed-up prima donnas and their obnoxious backbiting behavior. A detestable demanding director who pitches fits and props in the direction of her cast and crew.
Not.
I’m telling a tale of the tallest order. It’s something I’ve learned hanging around my theater friends.
Truth is, the process from casting to production has been an interesting thing to watch.
I was impressed with the courage of each woman who showed up early on to audition. I do not possess the pluck it takes to even drive by The Lyric during auditions.
Later, I watched five women with different degrees of experience come together and coalesce as a cast.
Though the director is a personal friend, I speak the truth when I say she knows what she’s doing. Her mantra from the beginning has been, “If we’re not having fun, we might as well go home.”
Let me say, there’s been lots of uproarious laughter, and, so far, no one’s gone home.
I always wondered if watching a set designer turn a flat, colorless stage into a town or a fishing pier or a beach cottage would somehow take away some of the magic that is live theater.
Now I know. I’ve found more magic in knowing the work that goes into it.
I’ve been gathering props the past week or so, and I’ve had a blast.
I’ve gotten to give notes on line blunders and why certain lines delivered as written are more powerful. The word devotee in me has loved that.
And I’ve gotten to be a teacher once again and yell at five actors who’ve become friends to shut their mouths backstage.
Come see the show. I think you’ll like it.
I’ll be happily hiding behind the curtains.
Keeping order and having a ball.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1584.