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A couple of laughs ... and a good cry

At the Center for the Arts, this week and next (May 19- May 29) is the play “Brilliant Traces”. Set in a snow bound cabin in Alaska, this powerful one-act play has a lot to say about life here in Pagosa Springs. The doors are always open at 6 p.m. for Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows and 1p.m. for Sunday matinees. Come to the Center for the Arts to listen to live music, enjoy a refreshing beverage, peruse the art gallery and visit with your friends before and after each show.

When you walk into the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts for Thingamajig Theatre Company’s production of “Brilliant Traces,” I promise your senses will come alive.

The doors always open to the building one hour before the start time of the shows. The show starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. And, really, you should get there early, because almost always a musician is playing in the art gallery and the art gallery is filled with beautiful work — some by local artists and some by Alaskan favorites. It takes some time to explore partly because it is always changing. In this particular art show, the Center for the Arts has something in common with the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. — pieces from the collection of native Alaskan artist Melvin Olanna. And if you are exploring the art gallery, it is always nice to sip a glass of wine, or have a glass of whisky, which is the show drink for “Brilliant Traces” because it is the drink of choice in this particular cabin in Alaska with a bottle of whisky on the table. Or if it is a Sunday — a Matinee Mimosa. And, after the show, you should plan on staying a little bit later to grab a cup of coffee or a Pagosa Bakery treat, and enjoy talking with your friends about the show you just experienced. These delicious life moments the Center for the Arts will put at your fingertips. As the endearing Auntie Mame once pronounced, “Live, live live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

I didn’t laugh once when I first read the script “Brilliant Traces.” During rehearsals, my husband, Tim, and I, who co-directed and are performing in the show, talked about needing to find the humorous parts in a story that has quite a lot of pain and sadness. To be honest, by last week’s opening night of “Brilliant Traces” at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, I am not certain that I knew exactly where the humorous places were. But, then someone in the audience laughed. And then they laughed again and then again, and one laugh at a time, they taught me where the funny moments in the script are. This is part of the reason I love theatre. Broadway legend Patti LuPone said, (while explaining the moment she stopped a show to scold an audience member for taking a flash photograph) “Theatre is a communal experience.” It quite simply does not work without the audience. The audience speaks to the actors on the stage as much as the actors speak to the audience. This is an experience that you do not get in the movies. It is not a recorded movement, or speech done 50 takes in a row until the exact right emotion or thought is portrayed in the exactly the right way. On a theatre stage stands people, real people whom you can reach out and touch. People who can forget a line or choke on a pretzel or get their bridal veil caught on a door. There are people who know that you are watching and can feel and hear your presence. Whether they hear you laugh, or sniffle, or unwrap a cough drop, or whisper something to your spouse, there are people on stage who are experiencing the story with the people in the audience at the same time. We all experience each big moment and little moment together, like every small community does.

Everyone loves to laugh. But not everyone loves to cry. I do. I like to do both. I like to be moved. Although sometimes it is not that great to have something that makes you cry. But that’s life. And usually it just feels good to live it. Live, live, live!

It’s sort of amazing how close crying is to laughing. When I studied with the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver, one day we spent an entire class lying on the floor switching between laughing and crying and just simply paying attention to the way it feels in your body. It is surprisingly similar. The way your breath moves, the ticklish feeling that you get when tears travel behind your nose, the surrendering of the muscles on your face and of your shoulders is all very similar and then of course there is the high that you get from the experience of “feeling.” But still everyone loves to laugh and not everyone loves to cry, which is why putting on a drama at a theatre can be a bit of a risk. The “risk” for the Thingamajig Theatre Company in the case of this month’s run of “Brilliant Traces “at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts is the question: Can we possibly talk anyone into coming to a show that will pull at their heart strings? Not that Brilliant Traces won’t make you laugh, because it will. It isn’t so much funny in a joking sort of way, as it is in a “isn’t life funny” sort of way, or perhaps “isn’t it funny how I can relate to this crazy story” kind of way.

There will be a Champagne Opening for every new production that Thingamajig Theatre Company brings to the stage in the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts which includes champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a “talk back” after the show with the actors. Tim and I came back on the stage last Friday after the show to talk back with whomever in the audience wanted to stay and talk about what we just experienced together. Every person in the audience, after grabbing a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, came back into the theater to talk. And it was wonderful. We had taken a journey together and it was great to hear their questions and their comments, and see the experience through their eyes, because as an actor and a fellow human I had only experienced the journey through my eyes.  We swapped stories, some about personal experiences that the audience members revealed and others about building a set at midnight in flipflops, and we greatly enjoyed ourselves. We enjoyed it so much that I have to encourage you to come see the show and then sit for a while in the art gallery with a cup of coffee and your fellow “community members and share with each other the journey you just experienced together. So, I invite you to come have a couple of laughs and a good cry with me. I promise you will enjoy yourself. And why not? After all life is a banquet, and at the Center for the Arts, the food for the soul is overflowing on the plate.

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