2113 N Orange Ave Orlando, FL 32804


At Rise…
As I walk in the door it seems so cavernous, so still, I know soon the air will be buzzing with tension, giggles, and vocal warm-ups. The ceiling lobby rises two stories to the black ceiling, plaster peels around the base of the lighting poles; their tenuous grip is quite nerve-wracking if I look too closely. The air is heavy with the scent of stale cigarette smoke and last night’s beer; there must have been a lot of bar-talk after rehearsal last night. That’s usually when the most work gets done. You rehearse, block, say your lines, and then go have a beer. While sitting around the bar you can talk about who you are-as a character, of course- and motivations, “I loved the way you delivered that line tonight, keep it!” and emotions “You really made me feel something inside when you stroked my arm that way.” The theatre space is dark, I pop on the work lights to check things out, the mice sneak away and the ghosts wander to their spaces backstage. Although it’s completely quiet there are echoes, timid ones from the past when this building was an orange packing plant, brash ones from its life as a Buick dealership and appliance store, but the most distinct are the ones from the last fifteen years. This theatre has seen much laughter, tears, pain, joy, and applause, it all has an electric feel, like the air after a lightening crack, you can feel it, smell it, taste it. In the last six months I have seen the place as a Mental Ward, Niagara Falls, a New York penthouse, a dry dirty Texas 5 & Dime, and a dusty street in Maycomb, Alabama. Now it is the dark London home of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchitt, Tiny Tim and numerous ghosts. A slight cloud of sawdust wafts in from the shop, the next show is slowly being born in there. The labor long, arduous, sometimes painful. I hear the sounds of table-saw Lamaze. The theater is clean, swept. There are no empty cups, bottles or cans strewn about the seats, all is ready. I take the roll of masking tape and the reservations list and play musical chairs with the patron’s names. The only music is in my head as I try to fit every last one in the “best seat in the house.” In this tiny space all seats are the best, but no one ever believes you. I finish with the space, now is time to go backstage. The greenroom is still so quiet, the props sit waiting on their table in perfectly marked squares, all have their name written neatly below, lest they forget what they are: Tim’s crutch, Marley’s chains, and Cratchett’s lump of coal. They patiently sit for their grand debut on the stage. The walls of the greenroom/dressing room are a modern archeological dig. Each panel filled with pictures, drawings, names and jokes of those who have gone before. “When did this start,” I wonder. Which cast was the first to say; “we must be remembered in this place?” Some shows had taken nearly whole walls, did they think this place would only last so long, that other shows would not come to pass and need a wall of their own? Suburbia ’97, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ’96, The Tempest ‘95, A larger-than-life drawing of Edgar Allen Poe stares down as though holding court, Poe “93. The memories have moved up to the ceiling, I find my name mixed in with so many, Private Eyes, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Wonder of the World. There, behind a rack full of bustled skirts and overcoats I see the eye of Chief Bromden, ah One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, just under Steambath, with self-made caricatures of the cast. I move my way to the dressing tables, to the space I always choose, I sit on the lighted side of the room, the one with the actual dressing room lights and mounted mirror. I sit just under Death of a Salesman and Bimbo Elves in Bondage, with autographs from Sideman surrounding it. I see names of people I know, names of people I’ve heard, names of those who have passed away. My usual chair has someone else’s costume on it. It is okay; there will be another time for my mirror, perhaps the next show, or the next. There is the dried rose I placed between two light bulbs at the end of Because He Can; it’s not going anywhere. I reach the end of the dressing room, out the stage door to the bar. I need to set up now. Actors are beginning to wander in; the nervous-energy is intoxicating, opening night! They flit about and squeal as last minute touches are made to costumes and hairstyles. Period pieces are always so much work, but always so much fun! I set up the bar, fill the cooler with sodas, juices and the most popular item, bottled water, I fill the tub with beers and ice, and I open wine bottles. Hopefully this will be a good drinking crowd, the theater can use all the help it can get and the bar may cover a costume expense, the tip jar may buy a prop. I light the candles and wait for the sign, suddenly the box office opens and any bit of silence is chased away.
The audience has arrived.

Theatre Downtown is Tax Deductible 501(c)(3)
Copyright 2011, Theatre Downtown