There are a plethora of characters that give a theatrical organisation life. Obviously the talent on the stage plays one of the biggest roles (Ha! see what I did there?) and their performance is the heart of the building, but there are other players, some who have bit parts, who are just as important in breathing life into a theatre. From the administrative brain, all the way down to the spleen of audio, every person who works in the building has a function in the body of the theatre.
There are so many stories and characters involved, that it’s no wonder that many plays and movies have been written on the subject of backstage life. From the ad libs on stage, the uncooperative props, the less than successful stage tricks, to the time the soundwalker showed up late and lost his ham to a lightwalker, it’s these things that give an organisation its character and a building its life.
There is one part of the theatrical experience that isn’t mentioned very often, and is just as important to the life of the masonite covered thespian arena and the actors who stand, sit, and skip on it. That part would be the patrons.
Especially the patrons who frequent the theatre on a regular basis. Those audience members who remember all the productions, good and bad, and feel our triumphs and defeats with us and keep coming back on a regular basis. Because of them, certain nights end up taking on their own life because of the subscribers that frequent them. There’s the reserved respect of the second week Wednesday matinee, the boisterous first Tuesday, and the naked shenanigans of the third Saturday night, and each of those audiences bring a different energy that affects the life on the stage.
During the performances it’s a huge give and take. As the talent on the stage exhales, the audience in the seats inhales, and the energy goes back and forth giving the show new nuances for every performance.
It’s like that in every theatre, and it isn’t new. It’s been going on since the great goat song tragedies of the Greeks. But at the John Hirsch Mainstage theatre in the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, there is one patron that infuses the building with a continuous energy in a different way, even when there are no thespians framed by the proscenium arch.
On the last Wednesday night, of every production (since I can remember anyway), there is a gentleman who sits at the very front of the loge on house left. He sits quietly watching the show, not bothering anyone, obscured behind the concrete of the side balcony. His energy joins the rest of the audience during the show, and after curtain call he departs with everyone else… but not all of his energy leaves with him, he always leaves something behind.
He is the reason we call the last Wednesday evening performance of every production “Origami night”.
I can’t remember how many times I have finished a Wednesday evening performance, weary from the double show day and grumpy because some piece of machinery called the whiz bang coupler didn’t connect right with a different piece of equipment called the thingamijigger, and produced some strange acoustic anomaly, and now I’ll have to come in early the next day to fix it. I climb out of my booth, out of sorts and head down the stairs, but as I walk past the loge, I see a paper menagerie sitting on the concrete shelf, and my mood instantly lifts.
It’s not always me who gets there first, sometimes an usher finds them, or Claude our head of electrics, or a patron, but the little folded pieces of paper end up being scooped up and many displayed in various offices and places back stage at the theatre.
Some are simple cranes,some are more complex like a butterfly, some are theme related (especially during Christmas) and some are so beautiful that they take your breath away.
They are all over our backstage and I have a few in my booth to lift my spirits. I look at the rose and butterfly that I have and they cheer me up every time.
The Origami Man is one of those instances when a patron gives us back more than just a response, and the backstage is infused with the life of some folded paper. His contribution lasts far after the final curtain.
A few productions back, one of our Front of House managers left a packet of oragami paper and a thank you note on his seat for him to find before the show. It was her response to show appreciation for his art form and reminds us the the theatre is a community and the patrons have just as much to contribute as we do.
Tonight is Origami night for our production of Jane Eyre… I wonder what will be waiting for us on the concrete shelf tonight?
Tonight’s folded offerings were thematic to Jane Eyre; a little heart for Jane, and a little horse for Rochester and the lads, along with some paper flower bowls. The heart went straight to our lead actress’ dressing room.