In the late 1990’s I had the good fortune of playing the lead role in one of my favorite plays of all time, Equus by Peter Schaeffer. It was produced by First Banana Players, a community group in Madison that had no formal resources — ie: we didn’t have our own rehearsal or performance space (and this was before the Bartell Theatre); we ended up renting Kanopy Dance‘s old studio…
I mention this not just for the random nostalgia, but because the recent turn of events has brought the memories of this production into my head once again.
See, the old Kanopy Dance space is in the Gateway Mall on Williamson Street; Kanopy moved some years ago, and the Gateway underwent some remodeling; the front part of the space now is occupied by OutReach, Madison’s LGBT community center; the back part of the space is where the offices of my new employer, WCASA, reside.
It’s a bit surreal, showing up for work every day, walking around the modest office space which has been so transformed that it is hardly the space it used to be – except when I look up and see the black painting on the steel structural beams and ventilation ducts; instantly I’m reminded of its previous incarnation as a performance space, and of the fact that a few feet away from where my desk and cubicle now reside I once stood, lit by gelled fresnels and lekos, and spoke out toward the silhouetted audience: “With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces…”
Anyone who has spent considerable time in the theatre will tell you that they – the physical performance spaces – contain ghosts. Maybe not the literal kind; wispy, ephemeral spirits from the after-world; but certainly the theatrical kind – the scantiest trace of memory of the words spoken within its walls that seem to reverberate for all eternity. Standing on a darkened stage in an empty theatre is practically a religious experience for an actor.
So, you can imagine for me the strange mix of feelings; it’s not a darkened theatre, but rather a brightly lit office space. Yet, one can’t help feeling that the essence of Mr. Shaeffer’s words, and the spirit and energy of all the folks that poured their blood, sweat, and tears into the production linger slightly. It gives me a sense of great comfort… even as it spooks me a bit.