A theatre fan steps into the world that's always felt like home
|She walked up to the theatre, her ticket shaking in her hand. Was she scared? Anxious? Excited? She wasn’t sure. She looked up, the lighted marquee a star against the darkened city sky. She followed the crowd through the heavy gilded front doors and into a lobby that took her breath away. The tile gleamed in the overhead light, the lobby itself seemed large enough to hold a full-scale show in. She shook with anticipation as she stepped through a second set of doors, into the theatre itself. Rows and rows of empty seats sat waiting to be filled. Patrons flooded up both sets of stairwells, and chatter echoed from overhead. The theatre itself seemed filled to the brim just by the sheer energy of the audience, the room felt filled to bursting, as though such excitement could not be contained in a space even as large as this. She followed the directions she had been given, passing by the merchandise and beverage counter to take the staircase up to the mezzanine. The staircase itself would’ve been at home in a palace, carpeted to soften even the sharpest of steps, the stairs twisted upward, widening as they went, until they spread out before her on a second story, sloping downward to overlook the orchestra level, filled with slightly fewer rows of seats than the floor below.
Following the crowd, she took the proffered playbill from the usher’s outstretched hand and allowed herself to be guided to her seat. She observed the usher carefully in his dark suit and tie. He was tall, older than her by far, but not unhandsome. He looked like he spent time on the beach-his tan darkened by the sun, not the orange tint of years spent using tanning spray. The usher bowed to her as she took her seat and made his way back to assist the next patron. She examined the seat she had been escorted to. The seats were a deep red, made of a soft, thick material. Velvet? She wondered, thinking of the maze of ropes she had navigated to make it through the door, made of seemingly the same material. She rested her arms on the armrests which folded out on either side of her, rubbed smooth by years of patrons who had occupied that seat before her. Her thumb brushed the gold plate that marked her seat number, and she glanced down. She felt the smooth edges of the plate, the bump of the screws which held it in place. She noticed the lights lining the staircase, small lights with hoods directing the glare downward, so any patron returning from an unexpected expedition to address the natural needs of the human body could easily find their way, with no danger of injury caused by a misstep or unseen obstructions in the aisle. She looked toward the stage, taking in the whole of the theatre’s façade. There were chandeliers hanging overhead, large, ornate lighting fixtures seemingly lit by the finest crystals. The room itself seemed to dance with the twinkling light, as if energized by the presence of such a large crowd. As the light danced in her eyes, she squinted against the glare until her eyes adjusted. The chandeliers were lined with gold and hung from golden chain-link ropes, dangling below domed ceilings supported by finely crafted arches. The ceiling was a work of art in and of itself, painted with intricate designs that swirled and danced overhead in a myriad of colors.
Down on the stage, she could see the cut-out circle of a disk, which spun at the touch of a button from somewhere unseen. The flats of the set stood ready to welcome their imagined residents. Empty chairs sat at tables set with laser-like precision, prepared for guests that surely waited just beyond the wings. She imagined the bustle backstage, actors rehearsing lines, stretching, laughing, maybe drinking coffee sent from Europe or South America, tea from England, eating scones they picked up at the nearest little coffee shop. She imagined the crew, frantically checking for props one last time, dressed in the darkest of blacks, unseen shadows without whom no light could shine. Finally, she turned her head up to the trusses-lighting fixtures, bigger than she was, stood like soldiers ready for battle. She picked out moving head lights, par cans, ellipsoidals, LEDs. She looked carefully for the safety cable on each, for the clamps that ensured these soldiers held their position. Tentatively, she stood, leaning forward to look for the pit orchestra. She could just make out the faintest of lights where the conductor stood, fireflies of lights pointing down on what were surely the music stands. The lights dimmed briefly, a sure sign the show would start shortly. She sat back in her seat, watching for the rustle of a scrim, indicative of movement backstage. She watched the eddies of air cause the slightest movement of the Grand curtain, its rich red color seemingly unmarred by years of service. She could see the thinner black curtains upstage, the legs that marked the edge of the imaginary world she waited even now to be transported into. The lights dimmed again, and continued until there was no light except for those which centered her focus toward the stage. The first note came over the speakers, washing over her with a calming effect, the embrace of an old friend. She saw a light behind her-the spotlight coming from overhead, its beam bright, to reach from the back of the theatre to the stage, designed to attract the eye to the center of its focus. She sat back, and prepared to let herself forget her troubles, if even for only a moment, and be transported to another world.