Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy Opening Night!

Celebrated: Today in Hallowell, Maine, by the cast and crew of William Inge's Picnic at Gaslight Theater  

Today's post is a cheat, as it's a reprint of my Director's Note from the PICNIC program. Tonight's performance is at 7:30 pm at Hallowell City Hall; performances continue August 24, 25, 29, 30 and 31. All performances at 7:30 pm except for Sunday, August 25, which is a 2:00 pm matinee. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. To make your reservations, call 207-626-3698 or click here.  

Picnic was originally published in 1953, but I first encountered it in 1985, when my college theater group (Georgetown University’s Mask & Bauble, long may it flourish) performed it. I auditioned for that show but was not cast, and wound up serving as costumer — just like Gaslight, everyone involved in that organization wore many hats.

What I loved about Picnic, then and now, was/is the depth of its characters. You’ll often see it subtitled as “A Summer Romance,” and on the surface it’s a simple love triangle: Alan courts Madge, Madge falls in love with Hal, hearts are broken as the price of true love. But the word “romance” applies to so much more within this play. Every one of the characters, even those we see for only a minute or two, is driven by some powerful emotion or desire. They all long for something, and that longing plays out in unexpected ways over Picnic’s three acts.

When I was 19, I empathized most with Rosemary, the teacher who grew old while she was busy being independent. Now I’d probably audition for the role of Flo, who wants so much for both her daughters. As I’ve directed the show I’ve decided that the author’s own spokesperson is Millie, who dreams of a literary life in the big city. But ultimately it falls to Mrs. Potts, the beloved, slightly comic, slightly tragic neighbor, to speak for all of us.

“I think we plan picnics just to give ourselves an excuse,” she says to Flo Owens, “to let something thrilling and romantic happen to us.”

“Such as what?” Flo asks.

“I don’t know,” Mrs. Potts says. “That’s what’s so exciting.”

 It has been an honor and a delight to work with this cast and crew, and I hope this is an experience that they — and our audiences — will always remember.

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