A Note From the Cloakroom: In the Wings

BY RICHARD BAXTER
Director, Campus and Community Events A View from the wings

Saint Mary’s College is constantly making improvements to the buildings and grounds of campus. Among these improvements, the College recently purchased new “soft goods” for the Little Theatre stage at the Moreau Center for the Arts. This included borders (the horizontal curtains near the top of the performance space, legs (the tall vertical side drapes), a cyclorama (white backdrop at the rear of the stage) and a mid stage traveler (a black curtain that can be pulled to divide the stage).

As the crew installed the curtains, Michaela Duffy, our academic technical director, proposed we give the stage a new coat of rich black paint. The floor and the new curtains give the space a bright, fresh look. Combined with the dark stage, the tall curtains, the leftover scenery, and the blue running lights, the theatre has a homey atmosphere that has always felt comforting and provided a sense of warmth. 

Standing in the wings can be exciting, and can generate peace.I’ve had the privilege to stand in the wings at Saint Mary’s and talk with many of our College administrators, lecturers, and performers. Some feel nervous just prior to an event, but most presenters are accustomed to the process and welcome the chance to meet the technicians and the dignitaries who will be introducing them. Guests of the College are always impressed by our students and our welcoming community. I believe this pre- and post- show spirit leaves an indelible mark on the stage, in the curtains, and between the floorboards. Our theatre spaces are steeped in a rich history of special College guests, and very talented student performers.

I’ve heard friends talk about discussions that could only happen in a specific place, such as an airplane or a doctor’s office. These could only happen backstage: I asked Reza Azlan, whose family has a wide diversity of religious and political backgrounds, about the tone of his Thanksgiving meals. I chatted with Jonathan Kozol about President Obama’s midterm election strategy, and about Kozol’s tradition of wearing boat shoes for every engagement, a tribute to his dear friend Fred Rogers. I remember talking to one of our musical performers through the frantic process of finding a lavalier mic. Guests of the College have been very gracious in sharing their time and talents with the community. The backstage environment, in particular, sets a tone of candor and comfort, as well as nerves, excitement, and exhilaration.

The next time you have a chance to walk on an empty stage, take a moment and let the quiet overcome you—take a deep breath. The air you breathe contains a history of activities and an abundance of spirit. If you have the opportunity prior to an event and find yourself backstage in conversation, plunge yourself into the mystery and warmth of the curtains, the soft lights and the precious company of those near you.

 

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