Selena Lane

A Place

The door is open. The door is always open. It is unknown whether this is because the theater is always metaphorically open or because the makeshift wooden bolt has long since fallen off. It is also unknown why a bolt was ever installed in the first place. It is unlikely that anyone would be drawn to the sunken building. Yet, the door is open, revealing a musty entranceway. A shameful piano is a greeting: a worn shell blanketed in ancient playbills, curling from the trapped air. A breeze from the outside ruffles the playbills. They are resistant to shifting and turning over themselves. Their discomfort is eventually relieved, but a photograph, loosely tacked to the wall, still manages to flutter silently in the aftermath. It is not a particularly stunning photograph, but nevertheless interesting. The stage, in contrast to its concrete double on the other side of the wall, is beaming with light and character. It is difficult to tell from the photo exactly what piece is being performed. The set and costumes both reflect a probable nineteenth century English setting. The expressions locked in the picture exude over-exaggeration, suggesting a comedy. These assumptions may be wrong, but it is no matter. The title of the play is not the main concern of the picture.

The real theater is a mess. The light is dim except for abrasive rays of sun piercing from cracks in the wood. Clumps of dust on the rusty seats are not surprising; this place was never one for any sort of even organization. Nothing has changed. The air is thick with the smell of past summers and standing ovations. Under the stage is still home to a variety of woodland creatures. Nothing has changed. Of course, in reality, everything has changed. Where are the beautiful sets of high backed armchairs and plush chez lounges? Where are the newsboy caps of Oliver; the ornamental dresses of Three Tall Women; the strong accent of The Good Doctor? The answer is on the backstage walls, inscribed in the wooden boards that construct the building. Delicate scrawls of names, years, and productions grace the surroundings, permanently etched into a mass of splinters. Marc Ferrante, 1995-2003. Leah Coselle, ’78, The Importance of Being Earnest. There is no beginning to the signatures: no method, no size or ink standard, not even random simplicity. Each name’s location has been carefully selected, placed strategically to ensure visual access and endurance. Chalk and watery ink mark the left end of the timeline, where Sharpies signify more recent declarations. The names corresponding with changing dates are the most dominant…or at least to those who wrote them.

The graffiti funnels off into the dressing room, where it reappears with even greater strength, covering every inch of wall in attempt to unify the filth. The dressing room is perhaps the most immune to immaculation. Pools of spilled makeup stream the floor and makeup tables. Various hats, scarves, and bags hang dejectedly from strained nails. They are all hideous. Several lonely safety pins lay huddled in the corner. They will not be rescued any time soon.

The stage is glorious. It gave everyone and anyone a presence. It also impaled several feet with a few obtrusive nails, but any pain resulting from that, or stubbed toes or stage-burned knees, was quickly mitigated by passion. Courageous passion that had opened this theater seventy years ago, driven generations of students to aspire to something greater, and would lead this place to its demise. No script or photo or attempt at recollection could capture the power of the stage. There is no relating it to anyone unfamiliar with it, only a desperate effort to somehow convey the tiniest percentage of ecstasy and fear and devotion soaked into each miserably uneven paint-stained panel. The stage is the epitome of veracity, the origin of identified emotion. It is the praised funeral of inhibition.

The door is open, but not to welcome. It is open because it does not matter who or why anyone would wander inside. The building is deserted, dark, and, finally, unwilling. What still stands is the tangible destruction of banks and time, and the ruin of a comfort and magnificence. The door is open, but perhaps it should not be. The playbills will only curl more; the seats only gather more dust. The safety pins will stay forgotten. But the walls: the walls will remain marked, displaying the past until the last hour they stand, and with them, securing a legacy of talent, drive, and love for the art.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.